Flammulated Owl (Otus flammeolus)
Associated Species: Other species that may use habitat in a similar way and/or respond similarly
to threats, management, and conservation activities include Northern Flicker, Pygmy Nuthatch,
and Western Bluebird.
Distribution: Flammulated Owls have a scattered, disjunct distribution from southern British
Columbia south through the Rocky Mountains into western Mexico, and as far west as southern
California. They are found in suitable habitat throughout Physiographic Area 62, with
concentrations in the ponderosa pine belts along the Front Range, the Uncompahgre Plateau, and
the San Juan Mountains.
Habitat Requirements: Flammulated Owls prefer old-growth or mature ponderosa pine,
apparently due to the presence of large broken-top and lightning-damaged snags and trees for
nesting cavities, large cavities excavated by Northern Flickers and other woodpeckers, open
structure of trees and understory for foraging, and high prey availability. They will utilize other
habitats with similar structure, such as open mixed-conifer and aspen forests. Key habitat features
seem to be the presence of large trees and snags, scattered clusters of shrubs or saplings,
clearings, and a high abundance of nocturnal arthropod prey. Territories are often on ridges or
dry mid-slope areas.
Ecology: These birds arrive in Colorado in late April to early May and lay eggs in May and June;
young hatch in June and early July, and most young fledge by the end of July. Most owls leave
Colorado by early October; the winter grounds are poorly known, but are believed to be southern
Mexico into Central America. The diet consists of invertebrates, including moths, beetles,
crickets, and grasshoppers.
Management Issues and Conservation Recommendations: Given the commercial value of the
large trees favored by Flammulated Owls for nesting, roosting, and as hunting perches, the
greatest threat to this species is the loss of habitat. Preserve stands of mature and old-growth
ponderosa pine forest within the species' range, in stands of at least 40 ha (100 ac); specifically,
protect stands with large [46 cm (18 in) dbh] trees and snags. Efforts to restore ponderosa
pine forests to pre-settlement conditions should be of great benefit.
Status and Reasons for Concern: Flammulated Owls have a high conservation need locally and
throughout their range. The U.S. Forest Service classifies this as a Sensitive Species in Region 2.
Because of their nocturnal habits, neither the BBS nor any other long-term monitoring program
adequately monitors these owls. These owls are present in all of their historical range, so no
apparent changes in distribution have occurred. No information is available on changes in
abundance. This species is monitored by MCB with nocturnal surveys.
Biological Objective: Maintain or increase the species' distribution and abundance based on
results of MCB nocturnal surveys or other monitoring programs.
Selected References: Andrews and Righter 1992, Hayward and Verner 1994, Kingery 1998,
McCallum 1994, Reynolds 1992, Reynolds and Linkhart 1987.