Common Name

Scientific Name


Photo by Judd Patterson
Photo Copyright Judd Patterson

The flammulated owl, Otus flammeolus, is a common raptor in montane pine forests (especially ponderosa pine forests) in the western United States. This species migrates from its wintering grounds in central Mexico, the highlands of Central America, and coastal California to its breeding grounds across western North America. Breeding areas extend from southern British Columbia southward through the western United States, and into central Mexico. This species occurs in mountain ranges throughout Utah, but it is believed that breeding occurs primarily in southwestern and the north-central parts of the state. Individuals of this species are more likely to be heard than seen due to their small size (approximately 6 in. long) and elusive nature. The species is considered to be widespread, but loss of mature forest habitat may be having a detrimental effect on population numbers.

Flammulated owls are strictly nocturnal and eat insects and other terrestrial invertebrates, such as spiders, centipedes, and scorpions. These owls often capture flying insects while in flight, but will also take prey items off trees or from the ground. Soon after arriving at the breeding grounds, males and females form pairs. The male then shows the female a selection of abandoned woodpecker holes and allows the female to make the final nest selection. The female lays a clutch of three or four eggs that she will then incubate for about three weeks. The father feeds the mother during incubation, and continues to provide food for the mother and young until the mother leaves the nest. Hatchlings emerge immobile and with closed eyes, and the mother remains with them until about the twelfth day after hatching, at which time the young begin following the parents on foraging trips. Thereafter, both parents tend to the young until the young are independent, about one month after leaving the nest.


  • McCallum, D. A. 1994. Flammulated Owl (Otus flammeolus). Birds of North America 93.

  • Peterson, R. T. 1966. A field guide to western birds, second edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA.

  • Biological and Conservation Database. 2000. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, The Nature Conservancy, and the Association for Biodiversity Information.