• Barn Owl
  • Barred Owl
  • Boreal Owl
  • Burrowing Owl
  • Eastern Screech Owl
    Eastern Screech
  • Elf Owl
  • Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
    Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
  • Flammulated Owl
  • Great Grey Owl
    Great Grey
  • Great Horned Owl
    Great Horned
  • Long Eared Owl
  • Northern Hawk Owl
    Northern Hawk
  • Northern Pygmy Owl
    Northern Pygmy
  • Northern Saw-whet Owl
    Northern Saw-whet
  • Short-eared Owl
  • Snowy Owl
  • Spotted Owl
  • Western Screech Owl
    Western Screech
  • Western Screech Owl
    Whiskered Screech Owl

FLAMMULATED OWL (Psiloscops flammeus)

Flammulated OwlHave you studied another language in school? There are thousands of different languages in the world, but the common language of all scientists is Latin. That’s because plants and animals have so many different names in so many different languages that it can get very confusing! So, all plants and animals also have a scientific name, which is in Latin. These names may sound funny (like Bubo or horribilus), but once you understand them, they actually make a lot of sense and can teach you something about the species.

Take the Flammulated Owl, for instance. Its Latin name is Psiloscops  flammeolus.  Psilo means single and scops is the Latin name for the genus, or group, called Scops. The Flammulated Owl is the only owl in North America that belongs to this genus, which tells you that it is very unique! The word flammeolus is the species name, and comes from the Latin word flammeus, which means “flame-shaped” or “flame-colored”.

So what can you infer about the Flammulated Owl? Did you guess that the Flammulated Owl has a reddish “flame” shape on its wing?  Well, that’s right!  Actually, Flammulated Owls can either be flame-colored (reddish) or ash colored (grayish), depending on where in North America they live. Generally they are grayer in the North and redder in the South. Perhaps these color variations help the owls to better camouflage themselves in their surroundings. No matter where they live Flammulated Owls choose habitats that are arid and cool- usually forested areas up in the mountains. Maybe it makes sense for the “flaming owl” to live in a place that feels cool!

Maps provided by The Birds of North America Online and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

  • A small owl with large dark eyes, grayish-brown beak, and short ear tufts

    Males: grayish-brown (northern) or reddish-brown (southern) with much streaking, dotting, and barring; much variation between individuals

    Females: same as males

    Young: similar to adults by second week

  • Height: Males 15-17 cm (5.9-6.7 in), Females 15-17 cm (5.9-6.7 in)

    Weight: Males 45-63g (1.58-2.22 oz), Females 45-63g (1.58-2.22 oz)

    Wingspan Both: 36-42 cm (14.2-16.5 in)
  • Range: western North America, from the mountains of southern B.C. through parts of most western U.S. states, south to mountainous Mexico; winters in southern and central Mexico and Guatemala

    Habitat: mainly associated with  mid-elevation mountainous regions with open coniferous forests; also high elevation aspen or oak forests; forests with brushy undergrowth

  • Almost exclusively insects, especially nocturnal insects like moths, beetles, and crickets; rarely rodents such as shrews
  • Heard at night; sounds like a larger owl, calling in the distance

    Males: a series of  single deep, short “whoop” or “hoot” notes; sometimes double “hoo-hoop”

    Females: higher pitched than males; also give a soft “mewing” call

  • Nest Site: cavity nester; usually nests in old woodpecker holes, but will occasionally use nest boxes; individuals often return to same area year after year

    Eggs: 2-4 creamy white eggs

    Incubation: 21-24 days
  • Almost strictly nocturnal; also crepuscular during breeding and incubation

Flammulated Owl Range Map

Flammulated Owl Range Map

Flammulated Owl Audio

Flammulated Owl Facts

Other Names: Flammulated Screech-Owl, Flammulated Scops Owl
Family: Strigidae
Closest Relative: None

Conservation Status

Not globally threatened, but sensitive in U.S. and vulnerable in Canada.


Learn more about ORI's research on this species.