The flammulated owl (Psiloscops flammeolus) is a small, nocturnal owl approximately 15 cm (6 in) long with a 36 cm (14 in) wingspan. Males and females can be distinguished by their weight. Females are larger, ranging from 62–65 g (2.2–2.3 oz) and males are smaller ranging from 50–52 g (1.8–1.8 oz). The owl gets the name flammulated from the flame-like markings on its face. It breeds from southern British Columbia and the western United States to central Mexico. It is a neotropical migrant and winters south of the United States, but also in South Texas, Arizona, and California. Unlike many owls, they are migratory, leaving Canada and the United States in the fall. In the winter, they are found in northern Central America, from southern Mexico to Guatemala and El Salvador. They leave their breeding grounds in August to head to their wintering areas, and then return to their breeding grounds in late April and early May. The flammulated owl is similar in appearance to the western screech owl, but is only about one-quarter the mass, lacks large ear tufts (but has small ear tufts that are barely visible), and has dark eyes and a different voice. The elf owl is smaller and the mountain pygmy owl is about the same size. The call is a series of relatively deep, single or double hoots.
The flammulated owl nests in tree cavities and has two to four young at a time after a 26-day incubation period. The young are able to forage for their own prey after about 25–32 days. These owls are obligate cavity nesters, meaning they only create nests in tree cavities. Females usually select cavities that used to be woodpecker or northern flicker nests. Their nests are bare and have no nesting material. Flammulated owls tend to form breeding pairs with unoccupied habitat between breeding clusters. They tend to have one clutch of eggs annually. Like other raptors, they can live long and have high nesting success, and during the nesting period, the female owls rely on the males to forage for them. Nesting habitat in the western U.S. and Canada is usually mature, open ponderosa pine and Douglas fir forests. Flammulated owls can also be found breeding in deciduous forests with some conifers present. In deciduous habitat, they can still breed productively.
They feed almost entirely on insects, but very occasionally eat small mammals such as shrews and other small rodents. The insects they eat mostly consist of small Lepidoptera. They also eat crickets and beetles.
Currently, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists the flammulated owl as a species of least concern, but populations may be declining in some areas.
- BirdLife International (2016). "Psiloscops flammeolus". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2016: e.T22688637A93203659. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22688637A93203659.en. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
- Biemiller, L.(2003). Night Vigil. Chronicle of Higher Education, 49 (44),A40.
- Samson, F. B. (2005). A Conservation assessment of the northern goshawk, blacked-backed woodpecker, flammulated owl, and pileated woodpecker in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service. Unpublished report on file, Northern Region, Missoula, Montana, USA.
- Marti, C. Flammulated Owls (Otus flammerlous) breeding in deciduous forests.
- "National Geographic" Field Guide to the Birds of North America ISBN 0-7922-6877-6
- Handbook of the Birds of the World Vol 5, Josep del Hoyo editor, ISBN 84-87334-25-3
- "National Audubon Society" The Sibley Guide to Birds, by David Allen Sibley, ISBN 0-679-45122-6
- Cornell Lab of Ornithology. All About Birds. http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Flammulated_Owl/lifehistory
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