Saturday, November 17, 2012

Owl of the Week: Flammulated Owl
This week's owl is the Flammulated Owl, a tiny specimen that only weighs a couple ounces.  Their name, flammulated, refers to the fire-colored reddish feathers on their otherwise grey-brown faces.  The rest of their plumage is either greyish or brownish depending on the individual.  They are the second smallest raptors in the region, tipping the scales at just 45-65 grams, with a wingspan of 16 inches (about the same as the "wingspan" of Human hands).  Although it doesn't look like it, they actually do have ear tufts (they're just tiny, little ear tufts).
Being such small, inconspicuous owls, they are difficult to find in the wild, although their populations are actually quite healthy.  In the United States they live in mountain forests, usually Ponderosa Pine and Douglas Fir at elevations up to 10,000 feet.  They are obligate cavity nesters, meaning they only build nests in tree cavities.  Around Colorado they usually use old Northern Flicker or woodpecker holes.  Their range is very scattered, with little patches of habitat in all of the mountain ranges in the Western United States, but not in between.

Flammulated Owls only live around here in the summer breeding season, migrating south to Mexico and Central America during the winter.  This is probably because there's nothing for them to eat up here during the winter.  Unlike other small raptors which eat rodents and supplement their diets with insects, Flammulated Owls almost exclusively eat insects, and only occasionally supplement their diets with very small rodents.  Their favorite bugs to eat are moths, crickets and beetles.  They hunt from a perch at night, like nocturnal flycatchers.
One way to actually find a Flammulated Owl in the wild is by listening for its hoot.  It's a unique noise, although very monotonous.  According to the Cornell Ornithology Lab, it sounds like "blowing across the top of a bottle" over and over again.

At the RMRP, the Humans don't admit many Flammulated Owls, maybe one or two every couple of years.  When they are admitted, it's usually when they encounter a car or a window during migration.  They're considered a species of least concern, although they are also considered vulnerable because of their very specific habitat needs.
That's all I have for you about the Flammulated Owl.  I'll be taking a break this next week, just like all you Humans, so check back the following week for the final owl in our series, the Pygmy Owl (even smaller than the Flammulated Owl!).  After that, I'll need a new topic to write about, so if you have any ideas about what you'd like to read on this blog, shoot me an email at with your suggestions!  Have a great holiday week!

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