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January 31, 2012 > Flammulated owl found in Hayward

Flammulated owl found in Hayward

Submitted By Rose Britton

A flammulated owl (otus flammeolus), a species rare to the Bay Area, was found in Hayward last May. The name "flammulated" derives from their flame-like facial markings. The dark-eyed nocturnal bird is tiny, although fully grown: approximately six inches long with a 14-inch wingspan. Males and females can be distinguished by their weight-females are larger.

The owl piqued the interest of ornithologists. This specimen was found behind Pet Club on Hesperian Boulevard, Hayward, where an employee observed it being attacked by crows. An examination at the Sulphur Creek Nature Center revealed that its tail had been pulled out and its back was raw and bloody. Antibiotics and pain killers were administered immediately. After three days, the owl started to eat mealworms and crickets. Later, it ate very small mice.

The little owl recovered quickly, but it took time for new tail feathers to appear. There was much discussion about where to release the bird. Three months later, on August 7, 2011, it was finally taken into the hills where a biologist had previously seen a flammulated owl, putting it closer to its reported range and in a better habitat than behind Pet Club.

For more information about the Sulphur Creek Nature Center, visit 1801 D Street, Hayward, call (510) 881-6747 or email

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