As often happens when humans jump to conclusions with partial data, today, through research this human misperception has been rectified. Flammulated Owls are now known to be common and widespread nesters throughout mountains of western North America and Mexico. Some have suggested it is perhaps the most common raptor of mountain forests.
A Great Horned Owl stands almost two feet tall. At less than half that size, the common Western Screech Owl is 8 ½ inches. Flammulated owls are closely related to screech owls. Imagine if a screech owl were to be shrunk a bit to 6-7 inches, the ear tufts shortened, the yellow eyes turned to pits of pitch black and the plumage sprinkled with rufous feathers you would have a semi resemblance of a Flammulated Owl. Between the size of a robin and a sparrow, the Flammulated Owl is the second smallest owl in North American, only the Elf Owl being smaller.
To everything, there is a season. All nature moves in rhythms and cycles, interwoven and dependent. Many owl species hunt by sound preying on both vertebrates and invertebrates. Food is available year-round. The Flammulated Owl is a visual hunter on a quest for insects, predominately moths, beetles and crickets. When the chills of approaching winter lull insect activity the Flammulated Owl, in full synchrony with the seasons, heads south to warmer climes to winter mainly in Central America countries like Guatemala and El Salvador. It is one of the most migratory of owl species. The wings, longer and more pointed than most owl species reflect an adaptation for their long migratory journey. In spring, they fly north in late April or early May when many insects are awakening, in motion once again.
Although the owls are seldom seen, their presence can be felt and heard on a nocturnal walk into their territory in the early breeding season. The male voices a low-pitched soft hoot repeated over and over with a ventriloquist quality lending an almost eerie resonance to the stillness of the night.