Birds of Prey Sanctuary

The Aviary

In 2014, the Birds of Prey Aviary was still a mere dream of Park Ranger Monica Johnson’s, one she had mentioned to several people over time. Sue Mathis, a local boy scout mother, approached Ranger Johnson at the park restaurant in the Spring of 2014, with a question, “Do you need help raising money for the aviary you talked about?” Ranger Johnson replied, “YES, how can you help?” Sue stated that her son would like to get involved with this project through his foundation, The Aden Foundation. From there the dream was on its way to becoming reality.

Sue Mathis’s son, Aden, and the FCMSP worked closely with Ranger Johnson to set up fundraisers to start raising money to get the project off the ground. Local businesses, park advocates, and bird lovers graciously donated money to the project raising over $10,000. The first workday, October 18, 2014, twenty-five volunteers from the local community and surrounding counties came to lend a hand with the construction of the aviary, but only a handful of those dedicated volunteers would work until the project was finished a year later. The park had four workdays scheduled that Fall/Winter, but the project got put on hold late November due to a very harsh winter. Workdays for the project started up again in late Spring. The project was finally completed in October 2015. The park had an official ribbon cutting event on June 4, 2016. The Aviary is now open to the public.  Please stop by and visit our feathery friends!

DONATE
Cumberland Mountain and FCMSP are still accepting donations for the birds of prey program. Donations are accepted at the aviary kiosk, camp store, and park office. Donations collected will go to purchase food for our feathered friends, as well as equipment we may need to care for the birds properly. 

To learn more about our feathery friends click on each bird of prey below.

Eastern Screech Owl

Eastern Screech-Owl
Megascops asio

Red Morph

Gray Morph

Photos by: Ranger Monica Johnson

Still widespread and fairly common, but thought to have been gradually declining in various parts of range. Helped in some areas by provision of nest boxes.

Family: Owls

Habitat
Woodlands, farm groves, shade trees. Generally favors deciduous or mixed woods, but may be found in any habitat having some open ground and some large trees, from forest to isolated groves to suburban yards. May be absent from some areas because of lack of dead snags with suitable nesting holes.

This robin-sized nightbird is common over much of the east, including in city parks and shady suburbs, where many human residents are unaware they have an owl for a neighbor. The owl spends the day roosting in holes or in dense cover, becoming active at dusk. Despite the name, screech-owls do not screech; the voice of this species features whinnies and soft trills.

Feeding Behavior
Forages at dusk and at night. Hunts mostly by watching from a perch and then swooping down to take prey from the ground or from foliage. Also catches flying insects in the air. Can locate prey by sound as well as by sight.

Eggs
4-5, sometimes 2-8. White. Incubation is mostly by female, averages about 26 days. Male brings food to female during incubation. Young: Both parents bring food for young. Adults may bring back small, wormlike Blind Snakes and release them in nest, where the snakes burrow in debris in bottom of cavity, feeding on insects there, perhaps helping protect the young from parasites. Young leave the nest about 4 weeks after hatching, are fed by parents for some time thereafter.

Young
Both parents bring food for young. Adults may bring back small, wormlike Blind Snakes and release them in nest, where the snakes burrow in debris in bottom of cavity, feeding on insects there, perhaps helping protect the young from parasites. Young leave the nest about 4 weeks after hatching, are fed by parents for some time thereafter.

Diet
Mostly large insects and small rodents. Wide variation in diet. Eats many beetles, moths, crickets, other large insects. Catches mice and other rodents, shrews, sometimes bats; also some small birds, lizards, frogs, spiders, earthworms, crayfish, many other small creatures. Some catch many small fish.

Nesting
Courtship displays of male include bowing, raising wings, clicking bill. Male brings food to female. Mated pairs preen each other’s feathers, call in duet. Nest site is in cavity in tree, including natural hollows and abandoned woodpecker holes; will also use artificial nest boxes. Usually 10-30′ above ground, can be 5-80′ up.

Migration
Apparently a permanent resident throughout its range. Especially in north, may wander somewhat in fall and winter.

Songs and Calls
A tremulous, descending wail; soft purrs and trills. 

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from 
Lives of North American Birds

Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk
Buteo jamaicensis

Photo above by: Ranger Monica Johnson

Widespread and common. Apparently has increased in some areas since the 1960s, and numbers now stable or still increasing. In several regions of North America, Red-tailed Hawks are adapting to nesting in cities.

Family: Hawks and Eagles

Habitat
Open country, woodlands, prairie groves, mountains, plains, roadsides. Found in any kind of terrain that provides both some open ground for hunting and some high perches. Habitats may include everything from woodland with scattered clearings to open grassland or desert with a few trees or utility poles.

This is the most widespread and familiar large hawk in North America, bulky and broad-winged, designed for effortless soaring. An inhabitant of open country, it is commonly seen perched on roadside poles or sailing over fields and woods. Although adults usually can be recognized by the trademark reddish-brown tail, the rest of their plumage can be quite variable, especially west of the Mississippi: Western Red-tails can range from blackish to rufous-brown to nearly white.

Feeding Behavior
Does most hunting by watching from a high perch, then swooping down to capture prey in its talons. Also hunts by flying over fields, watching for prey below. Small prey carried to perch, large prey often partly eaten on ground.

Eggs
2-3, sometimes 4, rarely 1-5. Whitish, blotched with brown. Incubation is by both parents, 28-35 days. Young: Female remains with young most of the time during first few weeks. Male brings most food, and female tears it into small pieces to feed to the young. After about 4-5 weeks, food is dropped in nest, and young feed on it themselves. Young leave the nest about 6-7 weeks after hatching, but not capable of strong flight for another 2 weeks or more. Fledglings may remain with parents for several more weeks.

Young
Female remains with young most of the time during first few weeks. Male brings most food, and female tears it into small pieces to feed to the young. After about 4-5 weeks, food is dropped in nest, and young feed on it themselves. Young leave the nest about 6-7 weeks after hatching, but not capable of strong flight for another 2 weeks or more. Fledglings may remain with parents for several more weeks.

Diet
Varied, includes small mammals, birds, reptiles. Diet varies with location and season. Mammals such as voles, rats, rabbits, and ground squirrels often major prey; also eats many birds (up to size of pheasant) and reptiles, especially snakes. Sometimes eats bats, frogs, toads, insects, various other creatures; may feed on carrion.

Nesting
In courtship, male and female soar in high circles, with shrill cries. Male may fly high and then dive repeatedly in spectacular maneuvers; may catch prey and pass it to female in flight. Nest site is variable. Usually in tree, up to 120′ above ground; nest tree often taller than surrounding trees. Also nests on cliff ledges, among arms of giant cactus, or on artificial structures such as towers or buildings. Nest (built by both sexes) a bulky bowl of sticks, lined with finer materials, often with leafy green branches added.

Migration
Northern Red-tails may migrate far to the south, while many at central or southern latitudes (especially adults) are permanent residents. Most migration is relatively late in fall and early in spring.

Songs and Calls
High-pitched descending scream with a hoarse quality, keeeeer. 

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from 
Lives of North American Birds

 

 

Barred Owl

Barred Owl
Strix varia

Photo above by: Ranger Monica Johnson

 

Still widespread and common, although may have declined in parts of south with loss of swamp habitat. In recent decades, has expanded range in northwest, and is now competing there with Spotted Owl.

Family: Owls

Habitat
Woodlands, wooded river bottoms, wooded swamps. Favors mostly dense and thick woods with only scattered clearings, especially in low-lying and swampy areas. Most common in deciduous or mixed woods in southeast, but in north and northwest may be found in mature coniferous trees.

Feeding Behavior
The rich baritone hooting of the Barred Owl is a characteristic sound in southern swamps, where members of a pair often will call back and forth to each other. Although the bird is mostly active at night, it will also call and in the daytime. Only a little smaller than the Great Horned Owl, the Barred Owl is markedly less aggressive, and competition with its tough cousin may keep the Barred out of more open woods.

Hunts by night or day, perhaps most at dawn and dusk. Seeks prey by watching from perch, also by flying low through forest; may hover before dropping to even hunt clutch prey in talons.

Eggs
2-3, rarely 4. White. Incubation is mostly or entirely by female, about 28-33 days; male brings food to incubating female. Young: Female may remain with young much of time at first, while male hunts and brings back food for her and for young. Age of young at first flight about 6 weeks.

Young
Female may remain with young much of time at first, while male hunts and brings back food for her and for young. Age of young at first flight about 6 weeks.

Diet
Mostly small mammals. Eats many mice and other small rodents, also squirrels (including flying squirrels), rabbits, opossums, shrews, other small mammals. Also eats various birds, frogs, salamanders, snakes, lizards, some insects. May take aquatic creatures such as crayfish, crabs, fish.

Nesting
Courtship involves both male and female bobbing and bowing heads, raising wings, and calling while perched close together. Male may feed female in courtship. Members of pair often call in duet. Nest site is in large natural hollow in tree, broken-off snag, or on old nest of hawk, crow, or squirrel. Rarely nests on ground. In east, often uses old Red-shouldered Hawk nest; hawk and owl may use same nest in alternate years.

Migration
Permanent resident throughout its range, although individuals may wander away from nesting habitat in winter. 

Sounds and Calls 
A loud barking hoo, hoo, hoo-hoo; hoo, hoo; hoo, hooo-aw! and a variety of other barking calls and screams. 
There call also sounds like they are saying “who cooks for you, who cooks for you all”. Go ahead and try it, you know you want to!

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from 
Lives of North American Birds

 

Barn Owl

Barn Owl
Tyto alba


 

In recent decades, has declined slightly in some regions, drastically in others. Numbers are apparently stable or increasing in a few sites. May be helped in some areas by provision of nest boxes.

Family: Barn Owls
Habitat Woodlands, groves, farms, barns, towns, cliffs. Typically in open or semi-open country in lowlands. May nest in forest or city if nearby area has good open foraging territory, such as farmland, marsh, prairie, desert.

With its ghostly appearance, rasping shrieks, and habit of roosting in such places as church belfries, this bird has attracted much superstition. However, it is really a good omen for farmers who find it in their barns, for it preys chiefly on mice and rats. Discovered in its daytime retreat, the Barn Owl bobs its head and weaves back and forth, peering at the intruder. At night it is often heard calling as it flies high over farmland or marshes. One of the most widespread of all landbirds, found on six continents and many islands.

Feeding Behavior
Hunts at night, seldom by day. Seeks prey mostly by flying low over open ground, watching and listening; sometimes hunts by flying down from a perch. Has excellent vision in low light levels, and hearing is so precise that it can strike prey in total darkness.

Eggs
Usually 3-8, sometimes 2-12 or even more. Whitish, sometimes becoming nest-stained. Incubation is by female only, 29-34 days; male brings food to female during incubation. Young: Female remains with young at first and broods them while they are small; male brings food, female feeds it to young. After about 2 weeks, female hunts also. Age of young at first flight roughly 55-65 days. Young return to sleep at nest or nearby for several more weeks. 1-2 broods per year, sometimes 3.

Young
Female remains with young at first and broods them while they are small; male brings food, female feeds it to young. After about 2 weeks, female hunts also. Age of young at first flight roughly 55-65 days. Young return to sleep at nest or nearby for several more weeks. 1-2 broods per year, sometimes 3.

Diet
Mostly rodents. Feeds heavily on voles; also takes various kinds of mice, small rats, shrews, young rabbits, other mammals. Eats very small numbers of birds, lizards, insects, rarely frogs or even fish.

Nesting
In courtship, male performs display flight, including loud wing-claps; male feeds female. Nest: Uses sites in caves and hollow trees, also many artificial sites such as barn lofts, church steeples, abandoned houses, dry wells, crevices under bridges, nest boxes. Where no existing cavities available, will dig holes in dirt banks. No real nest built, but will arrange debris into crude depression.

Migration
Some remain all winter near northern edges of range, but some (perhaps especially young birds) move long distances southward in fall. A regular October migrant at Cape May, New Jersey.

Songs and Calls
Hissing notes, screams, guttural grunts, and bill snapping. Young give rapid grackle-like clicks. 

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

­­

American Kestrel

American Kestrel
Falco sparverius


Counts of migrants suggest declining numbers in the northeast in recent years, but numbers elsewhere still healthy. Providing of nest boxes has helped populations in some areas.

Family: Falcons
Habitat Open country, farmland, cities, wood edges. Inhabits any kind of open or semi-open situation, from forest clearings to farmland to desert, wherever it can find adequate prey and some raised perches. In breeding season, may be limited to habitats that also provide appropriate nesting sites. In winter, females may tend to be found in more open habitats than males.

Our smallest falcon, the kestrel is also the most familiar and widespread in North America. In open country it is commonly seen perched on roadside wires, or hovering low over a field on rapidly beating wings, waiting to pounce on a grasshopper. Kestrels nest in cavities in trees; in places where there are few large dead snags to provide nest sites, they may rely on nesting boxes put up for them by conservationists.

Feeding Behavior
Hunts mostly by watching from a high perch, then swooping down to capture prey. Sometimes, especially when no good perch available, hovers over fields to watch for prey. May pursue and catch insects, birds, or bats in flight. Individual kestrels often specialize on one particular kind of prey.

Eggs
4-6, rarely 2-7. White to pale brown, usually spotted with brown and gray. Incubation is by both parents, usually 28-31 days. Young: Female remains with young most of time at first, while male brings food; after 1-2 weeks, female hunts also. Age of young at first flight about 28-31 days. Parents continue to feed young up to 12 days after fledging; later, these juveniles may gather in groups with young from other nests.

Young
Female remains with young most of time at first, while male brings food; after 1-2 weeks, female hunts also. Age of young at first flight about 28-31 days. Parents continue to feed young up to 12 days after fledging; later, these juveniles may gather in groups with young from other nests.

Diet
Mostly large insects; also some small mammals, birds, reptiles. Grasshoppers are among the favored prey, but many other large insects are taken, including beetles, dragonflies, moths, caterpillars, others. Also feeds on mammals (including voles, mice, and sometimes bats), small birds (sometimes up to the size of quail), lizards, frogs, earthworms, spiders, crayfish, other items.

Nesting
During courtship displays, female flies slowly with stiff, fluttering wingbeats, the wings held just below horizontal. Male repeatedly flies high, calling, and then dives. Male brings food for female, passes it to her in flight. Nest site is in cavity, usually in dead tree or snag, sometimes in dirt bank or cliff, or in old magpie nest. In southwest, often in holes in giant cactus. Also uses artificial nest boxes. Sites usually 10-30′ up, but may be at any height.

Migration
Many kestrels in southern or middle latitudes are permanent residents, while northern birds may migrate far to the south. Young birds may tend to migrate farther than adults.

Songs and Calls
Shrill killy-killy-killy.
klee-klee-klee alarm call
calls of male
begging calls of captive

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds