Okanagan Region  
Regional Home Page
Regional Enforcement Branch Regional Environmental Protection Branch
Regional Environmental Stewardship Branch

About Species at Risk
Species Profiles
Conservation Strategies
Related Links

Habitat Atlas for Wildlife at Risk
Flammulated Owl
Otus flammeolus

Flammulated Owl
Flammulated Owl

  • A tiny owl; length 15 cm, weight 50 - 65 gm.
  • Colouration makes these owls blend in with surroundings: mottled grey with reddish-brown markings.
  • Eyes are dark brown, most other small owls have yellow eyes.
  • Usually heard more often than seen; call is a soft "boo-boot."
  • Short 'ears' are actually tufts of feathers on top of their heads; real ears are hidden.

Habitat map not available.


British Columbia Blue List
Canada: Vulnerable

Special Significance

In British Columbia, Flammulated Owls are restricted to a narrow range of habitat in old Douglas-fir and ponderosa pine forests, where large trees provide foraging sites, snags provide nesting sites and thickets of young trees provide roosting cover. Flammulated Owls have a low reproductive rate and their long migrations likely result in high annual mortality of young birds. They nest in cavities, using holes in dead snags made by Northern Flickers and Pileated Woodpeckers. Modern forestry methods have eliminated snags over much of this species' range. Flammulated Owls are locally common in areas of spruce budworm infestations, and may have an important role in the control of some forest insect pest species.


  • In British Columbia, Flammulated Owls breed in the Southern Interior from the East Kootenays west to Princeton, Merritt and Lillooet, north to Williams Lake, Kamloops and Radium Hot Springs.
  • Flammulated Owls breed in suitable habitat throughout the montane forests of western North America and Mexico; northern populations migrate to Mexico and Central America during the winter months.
  • They are found between 500 and 1000 m elevation in British Columbia.


  • Typical habitat is a mature Douglas-fir forest with scattered large ponderosa pines, grassy openings, thickets of young trees, and an abundance of dead snags.
  • Large, old trees are used for foraging and advertising territory by calling.
  • Snags with woodpecker cavities are required for nest sites.
  • Thickets of young trees, especially young Douglas-firs, are important roosting habitat.


  • Nesting occurs from early June to early August; nest is in a woodpecker cavity with no other material added.
  • Two to four eggs are laid.
  • Eggs are incubated by females for 21 to 22 days; young are ready to leave the nest 20 to 26 days after hatching.

Food Habits

  • Flammulated Owls eat insects, especially moths, beetles, grasshoppers and crickets.
  • One owl found in Kelowna had eaten a dusky shrew, the only record of a Flammulated Owl eating a mammal.

Interesting Facts

  • Flammulated Owls readily accept nest-boxes for nest sites. Boxes should be 50 cm high, 20 cm square, with a 7 cm hole near the top.
  • Young birds leave the nest before they can fly well and when they are still covered with grey down; they give a gasping call to beg foods from the adults.
  • Flammulated means 'little flames,' referring to the line of orange feathers down the back.


  • Habitat loss due to forest harvesting.
  • Destruction of nest sites during logging operations.
  • Small size of this owl makes it vulnerable to attack by nest-site competitors such as squirrels.

Management Considerations

  • Protect remaining old-growth ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir forests.
  • Leave snags and some large pines and firs when selectively logging a site; this can be done by choosing wildlife tree patches that contain suitable nesting snags.
  • Set up nest boxes in forests that have few or no suitable nest sites.
  • Contact your local B.C. Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection to report a sighting of Flammulated Owls.


1. van Woudenberg, A. 1998. Status of the Flammulated Owl (Otus flammeolus) in British Columbia. Draft status report, Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection, Williams Lake, BC.
2. McCallum, D. A. 1994. Flammulated Owl. In The Birds of North America No. 93 (A. Poole, P. Stettenheim and F. Gill, eds.). Philadelphia: The Academy of Natural Sciences; Washington, DC: The American Ornithologists' Union.
3. Cannings, R. A., R. J. Cannings and S. G. Cannings. 1987. The birds of the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia. Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria. 420 pp.


Government of BC links
Ministry Home Government of British Columbia Ministry of Environment Top of Page Copyright Disclaimer Privacy