Species Profile

Flammulated Owl

Scientific Name: Otus flammeolus
Taxonomy Group: Birds
Range: British Columbia
Last COSEWIC Assessment: April 2010
Last COSEWIC Designation: Special Concern
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Special Concern


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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Flammulated Owl

Flammulated Owl Photo 1

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Description

This is a small owl with short ear tufts. It looks like a Western Screech-Owl, but has dark instead of yellow eyes. The Flammulated Owl has grey and red colour phases, which may be an adaptation to blend in with the bark colour of the dominant tree species. The reddish phase is commonest in the south part of the owl's range (where Ponderosa pine predominates) and the greyish phase, heavily streaked with brown, is more common in the north (where Douglas-fir predominates).

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Distribution and Population

The Flammulated Owl breeds in the montane forests of western North America, from the interior plateau of south central British Columbia to the highlands of Mexico and Guatemala. It winters from southern Mexico to Central America. Nesting in Canada has been confirmed as far north as Skull Mountain, near Barrière, north of Kamloops. The highest density of nesting Flammulated Owls in B.C. (0.11 nests/40 ha) was found on Wheeler Mountain in 1995. This secretive, nocturnal owl is very difficult to census, but it may be locally abundant in some districts.

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Habitat

Flammulated Owls inhabit montane Ponderosa pine and other coniferous woodlands. In British Columbia, the species is found primarily in the dry Interior Douglas-fir biogeoclimatic zone, and secondarily in the Ponderosa pine zone. Breeding Flammulated Owls prefer old-growth stands (in B.C., trees > 141 years old), where there are snags containing nesting cavities. The understory is typically comprised of grasses and low shrubs.

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Biology

Flammulated Owls nest in abandoned woodpecker holes, especially those of flickers. They produce only one brood per season. The number of eggs in a clutch varies from 1 to 5 (usually 3 or 4). The age at which these owls first breed is not known. They eat insects, spiders and other arthropods, which they capture during flight or by gleaning the bark of trees. The species is strictly nocturnal.

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Threats

Flammulated Owl breeding habitat in British Columbia is affected primarily by forest and livestock management activities. Since the last century, the composition and structure of montane forests in western North America have been altered by active fire suppression, timber harvest, and livestock grazing. The owls leave areas where clear-cut logging or other practices have eliminated or reduced the availability of suitable habitat. Housing development in the Okanagan Valley has contributed to the loss of habitat. The Flammulated Owl is potentially vulnerable to aerial spraying with pesticides or other management procedures used to control forest insect pests which the owls eat.

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Protection

Federal Protection

More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

The Flammulated Owl is protected by the British Columbia Wildlife Act. Under this Act, it is prohibited to kill, harm, or collect adults and eggs, or to destroy active nesting sites.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

8 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Flammulated Owl Otus flammeolus in Canada (2010)

    The Flammulated Owl is the only member of the genus Otus in the Americas. It is 15 to 17 centimetres long and weighs 45 to 63 grams in the nonbreeding season. Unlike other small Canadian owls it has dark brown eyes. The scapular feathers are always orange-tipped, hence the name “flammulated”, meaning marked with little flames. The Flammulated Owl territorial call is a distinctive, soft “boo-boot”. Genetic studies suggest that there is considerable genetic interchange between populations in different mountain ranges, perhaps not surprising considering their long-distance migration habits and low natal site fidelity. There is only one subspecies recognized in Canada and it occurs within a single biogeographic zone.
  • COSEWIC Assessment and Update Status Report on the Flammulated Owl Otus flammeolus in Canada (2001)

    The Flammulated Owl (Otus flammeolus) is a small (55 60 g), insectivorous, secondary cavity-nesting bird that breeds in dry, old Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forests (Campbell et al., 1990). The species is migratory and the northern limits of its breeding range extend into south central British Columbia, the only province in Canada in which the owl occurs. The Flammulated Owl has dark eyes that help distinguish it from all other small species of owls in Canada, which have yellow eyes (Godfrey 1986).

COSEWIC Assessments

  • COSEWIC Assessment on the Flammulated Owl Otus flammeolus in Canada (2001)

    Designated Special Concern in April 1988. Status re-examined and confirmed Special Concern in April 1999 and in November 2001. Last assessment based on an existing status report.
  • COSEWIC Assessment Summary and Status Report: Flammulated Owl Otus flammeolus (2010)

    Assessment Summary – April 2010 Common name Flammulated Owl Scientific name Otus flammeolus Status Special Concern Reason for designation In Canada, this small owl is restricted to older Douglas-fir and Ponderosa Pine forests of the southern interior of British Columbia. The species requires mature coniferous forests with a mosaic of large-diameter, old trees, clumps of dense regenerating younger trees and small patches of shrubby grassland for breeding. The extent and quality of this habitat was significantly reduced through the early to mid-1900s by forest harvest. Ongoing threats include forestry practices that remove large trees and snags, epidemics of insect pests such as the Mountain Pine Beetle and catastrophic fires combined with the species’ small population, limited distribution, small clutch size and delayed breeding of males. Occurrence British Columbia Status history Designated Special Concern in April 1988. Status re-examined and confirmed Special Concern in April 1999, November 2001, and April 2010.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Flammulated Owl (2010)

    In Canada, this small owl is restricted to older Douglas-fir and Ponderosa Pine forests of the southern interior of British Columbia. The species requires mature coniferous forests with a mosaic of large-diameter, old trees, clumps of dense regenerating younger trees and small patches of shrubby grassland for breeding. The extent and quality of this habitat was significantly reduced through the early to mid-1900s by forest harvest. Ongoing threats include forestry practices that remove large trees and snags, epidemics of insect pests such as the Mountain Pine Beetle and catastrophic fires combined with the species’ small population, limited distribution, small clutch size and delayed breeding of males.   

Management Plans

  • Management Plan for the Flammulated Owl (Otus flammeolus) in Canada (2013)

    The Flammulated Owl (Otus flammeolus) is a small forest owl. It is listed as Special Concern under Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act. The Flammulated Owl is under the management jurisdiction of the British Columbia provincial government. The federal Minister of the Environment has adopted the provincial management plan for the species, which was provided as science advice to the jurisdictions responsible for managing the species in British Columbia. Environment Canada has prepared a federal addition to meet the requirements of SARA.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2010 (2010)

    Under Canada’s Species At Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species”. During the past year, COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings and reviewed the status of 79 wildlife species (species, subspecies, populations). During the meeting of November 2009, COSEWIC assessed or reviewed the classification of the status of 28 wildlife species. COSEWIC assessed or reviewed the classification of an additional 51 wildlife species (species, subspecies and populations) during their April 2010 meeting. For species already found on Schedule 1 of SARA, the classification of 32 species was reviewed by COSEWIC and the status of the wildlife species was confirmed to be in the same category (extirpated - no longer found in the wild in Canada but occurring elsewhere, endangered, threatened or of special concern). The wildlife species assessment results for the 2009-2010 reporting period include the following: Extirpated: 6 Endangered: 39 Threatened: 16 Special Concern: 17 Data Deficient: 1 This report transmits to the Minister the status of 46 species newly classified as extirpated, endangered, threatened or of special concern, fulfilling COSEWIC’s obligations under SARA Section 24 and 25. A full detailed summary of the assessment for each species and the reason for the designation can be found in Appendix I of the attached report. Since its inception, COSEWIC has assessed 602 wildlife species in various risk categories, including 262 Endangered, 151 Threatened, 166 Special Concern and 23 Extirpated. In addition, 13 wildlife species have been assessed as Extinct. Also, to date, 46 wildlife species have been identified by COSEWIC as Data Deficient and 166 wildlife species were assessed as Not at Risk. This year has been a particularly productive year for COSEWIC’s Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge (ATK) Subcommittee. In April 2010 COSEWIC approved the Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge Process and Protocol Guidelines, providing clear and agreed principles for the gathering of Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge to carry out COSEWIC functions as required under Section 15(2) of SARA (See Appendix III of the attached report). We are grateful for the rich and enthusiastic contribution made by community elders and experts in helping the ATK Subcommittee prepare the ATK protocols.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species – November 2010 (2010)

    As part of its strategy for protecting wildlife species at risk, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Please submit your comments by February 4, 2011 for species undergoing normal consultations and by February 4, 2012 for species undergoing extended consultations.