Birds of Prey
The barred owl lives in coniferous forests near water sources, and wooded swamps. They require dense foliage for daytime roosting, and large trees with cavities for nesting. Their reliance on large tree cavities means that populations of barred owls are dependent on the presence of old growth forests throughout much of their range.
Average lifespan (wild): 12-15 years
Average lifespan (captivity): 20-25 years
The longest recorded age of a wild barred owl is 18 years and 2 months old. Mortality during the first year of life is probably highest.
The Barred Owl is primarily a nocturnal hunter, although they are sometimes active during the day. Barred owls live alone for most of the year, only living in family groups from the breeding season until the young leave the nest. Mated pairs typically live in adjoining home ranges, with the degree of overlap between home ranges increasing during the breeding season. They will call to other members of the species in the area if disturbed. Their distinctive call of "hoo, who cooks for you!" can be heard at night and they will often answer even a bad imitation. Barred owls are territorial and do not range widely unless food scarcity causes them to move farther in search of prey. They do not migrate.
Golden eagles are found in open and semi-open habitats from sea level to 11,800 feet elevation. Their habitats include tundra, scrublands, grasslands, woodland-brush lands, and coniferous forests. Most golden eagles are found in mountainous areas, but they also nest in wetland, riparian and estuarine habitats. Golden eagle pairs maintain territories that may be as large as 60 square miles (155 square kilometers). They nest in high places including cliffs, trees, or human structures such as telephone poles.
Average lifespan (wild): 25-28 years
Average lifespan (captivity): 35-40 years
The oldest known golden eagle lived to 46 years in captivity. In the wild, golden eagles have been known to live up to 32 years.
Golden eagles are monogamous, and may bond for life. Breeding pairs will use the same nest site for years. Both the male and female build the nest, incubate the eggs and care for the young. Juveniles do not breed until 4 to 7 years of age.
Peregrine falcons are among the world's fastest birds of prey and live on all continents except Antarctica. They prefer wide-open spaces, and thrive near coasts where shorebirds are common, but they can be found everywhere from tundra to deserts. They nest on cliff faces and crevices and have recently begun to colonize urban areas because tall buildings are suitable for nesting in this species, and because of the abundance of pigeons as prey items.
Average lifespan (wild): 15-18 years
Average lifespan (captivity): 20-25 years
Survival rates through the first year of life are estimated at 40% with adult survivorship estimated at 70%. A heathy falcon lives an average of 13 years and maximum longevity records for wild birds are from 16 to 20 years old.
The longest known lifespan for a captive peregrine falcon is 25 years.
Back from the Brink
Peregrine falcons became one of the world’s most Endangered Species during the 60’s and 70’s. Widespread use of pesticides caused these predators’ egg shells to become too thin to incubate and their population in the wild plummeted. There were no Peregrines sighted in the Smoky Mountains for several decades. After the ban on DDT, a captive breeding program and releasing or “hacking” of the young birds has returned them to our skies. In June 1997, the first nesting of previously released Peregrines was recorded in the Smokies.
Peregrine falcons are active during the day. These birds may travel widely outside the nesting season—their name means "wanderer”. Though some individuals are permanent residents, many migrate. Some nesting sites have been in continuous use for hundreds of years, occupied by successive generations of falcons. Peregrine falcons form monogamous pair bonds that often last throughout many breeding seasons. They typically raise one clutch each year. Both parents care for their young and teach them to hunt. It takes 2 - 3 months before they are independent, and 3 years for them to reach adulthood and be able to breed.
Peregrine falcons prey almost exclusively on birds, which make up 77 to 99% of prey items. They will also eat small reptiles and bats, squirrels and rats. They most frequently hunt from a perch with a high vantage point, such as a cliff or tall tree. After sighting their prey, they drop into a steep, swift dive that can top 200 miles an hour.
Falconry is an ancient sport. It was practiced in China before the year 2000 BC: falconry is also the subject of some of the oldest Egyptian wall paintings. English playwright William Shakespeare was a falconry fan who introduced falconry terms into popular speech: the word "Hag" or "Haggard" is the term for a mature wild hawk or falcon. Horus, an Egyptian god, was a Peregrine falcon: the "Eye of Horus" is clearly a stylized Peregrine falcon's eye.