College of Veterinary Medicine |

Healthy Animals, Healthy People, Healthy Planet


Casper was a female adult Flammulated Owl (Otus flammeolus) of unknown age. She was found near the Seattle area in April of 2004 and spent two months with a veterinarian there because of a wing injury. When she was well enough, she was flown to us via Horizon Air. We are uncertain how she sustained her injury but her left wing droops and she cannot fly. As of November 2005 Casper became a resident in an education program outside of WSU. 

Flammulated Owls are small and reclusive. They live in mature douglas fir and pine forests with good understorage and resemble pinecones. They will nest in tree cavities and will often kick out flickers and woodpeckers and take over their nests. Flammulated owls can be found throughout the western U.S., summering north into Canada and wintering south into Mexico. About 90% of their diet is made up of insects including beetles, moths, and crickets, with the other 10% being small mice, shrews, and occasionally small lizards.

These owls nest in semi colonial breeding populations in June and lay 2 to 4 eggs, which are incubated for 21-24 days. The young birds fledge in about 3 weeks and become independent of their parents at approximately 5 weeks. Juveniles are grayish-white in coloring without streaks, but over time their coloring will change to one of two color phases; the grey phase with grey-brown markings, most often seen in birds of the northern regions; or the red phase with cinnamon-brown markings, most often seen in birds inhabiting the southern regions.

Their name comes from the Latin name flammeolus that means “the small flame owl with horns”, referring to the flame-like markings down its back. They have small black eyes and ear tufts, which they hold erect when interested in something or when trying to blend in with their surroundings to avoid being seen. Enemies of this owl include both diurnal and nocturnal raptors, its best defense is its impressive camouflage.

Washington State University