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Flammulated Owls Are Here

Female Flammulated Owl peers from her nest cavity in RMNP.

By Scott Rashid,
Director Of CARRI

Several weeks ago Grant Spencer, Susan Rashid and I built several nest boxes for owls and have placed about 40 on private property. The owl nest boxes were constructed originally for Northern Saw-whet Owls. However, we have another small owl that could be using some of those nest boxes now; the Flammulated Owl.

The Flammulated Owl is a small gray owl with dark eyes. In fact it is the smallest owl in North America with dark eyes. All other small owls in North America have yellow eyes. The Flammulated Owl winters south of the U.S. border and then returns to the mountains of the west to breed.

I’ve found Flammulated Owls nesting in RMNP in the past, all of which have been in the cavities of Aspen trees. These little owls most often nest in abandoned Northern Flicker cavities. However, flams will also nest in nest boxes. Flams also breed in similar habitat as do Northern Saw-whet Owl and Northern Pygmy-Owls. Therefore, there is a chance that some of you have these little owls on your property.

The best way to locate a Flammulated Owl is to go out after dark and listen for a series of soft muffled hoots. The call of this owl is usually a single hoot but at times will be a double hoot. Kind of a hoot, or hoot hoot. The male’s voice is lower in pitch than the females and the female often replies with a single higher pitched hoot. The hoots of Flammulated Owls are softer and quieter than those of the Great Horned Owl.

A fledgling the evening it left home for the first time.

Flammulated Owls nest here in the mountains and feed primarily on moths that the adults catch in mid air. At this time of year the female Flammulated Owls are incubating their eggs and being fed by their mates. Any unmated males will still be vocalizing to attract a mate.

As the female begins incubating, she will be fed by her mate. The male will be foraging for moths to feed himself and his mate. As the eggs hatch, if there are two young, the male will provide food for the female, who will in turn feed the young within the nest. If there are three or more young, both male and female will provide food for the young.

The young remain within the nest for three weeks or so before they leave (fledge). As the young food beg you can hear a kind of psssssh. This food begging call is reminiscent of the sound made when one opens a soda can.

If there are two young, both will fledge the same evening, just at dark. If there are three or more young, they will fledge over a two to three evening period. The owlets (baby owls) will remain in their juvenile plumage for about four weeks before growing into their adult plumage. These owls remain in the area until mid October when they migrate back to their wintering grounds.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me at 577-1794 .

As always, your tax deductible donations are welcomed, please mail to CARRI, P.O. Box 3351 Estes Park, CO 80517.

© 2014 Estes Park News, Inc

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