RESEARCH FOCUS: FLAMMULATED OWLS

FLAMMULATED OWL RESEARCH PROJECT

FLAMMULATED OWL RESEARCH PROJECT

The first evidence of Flammulated Owl nesting in Montana was recorded in 1975, and the first nest discovered in 1986 (Holt et al. 1987). In 2008, we initiated a study in Lolo National Forest. We detected 9 Flammulated Owl territories, saw evidence of breeding at one territory, and confirmed a nest (incubating female and eggs) at another. The discovery represented the third Flammulated Owl nest site found in Montana.

In 2009, we doubled our efforts, detecting 14 territories with both singing individuals and pairs. However, we found no evidence of successful breeding — no eggs, brooding or incubating females, or nestlings, despite intensive searching and monitoring. In 2010, we detected 15 territories and 3 nests.

During this four-year study, we have found it fairly easy to detect singing Flammulated Owls, pinpointing 18 separate territories. More difficult is finding nests. So far, with extensive searching, we have discovered four. 

Flammulated Owls are diminutive, insectivorous owls that are restricted in their distribution to western North America; from southern British Columbia along the Rocky Mountains to Mexico.  Being primarily insectivorous, they are highly migratory and the entire population is believed to leave their northern breeding grounds to winter in Mexico and Central America, where insects are presumably abundant. 

While tough to find and harder to monitor, our record of nest tree characteristics and habitat use by Flammulated Owls has helped shape the forest management plan in our study area.