Raptors in Residence | Nanjemoy Creek

Raptors in Residence


NCEEC is the home of several raptors.  All of the birds that reside at NCEEC came to us after being cared for by a veterinarian or a wildlife rehabilitator.  Each bird has a permanent injury that makes the bird unable to survive in the wild on its own. We feed them laboratory control mice from a scientific research company and the bald eagles periodically get fish.  Yearly, each bird visits the vet for a checkup.

So, what is a raptor (bird of prey)?  Raptors are birds that hunt and feed on other animals.  To do this, they have special adaptations that allow them to consume their prey.  They have a very sharp hooked beak which is used for ripping and tearing their prey into bite size pieces, sharp talons (toenails) to hold their prey and excellent vision that allows them to see their prey during flight.

Eastern Screech Owl   Megascops asio

screech owlDescription: 7-10 inch long with an 18-21 inch wingspan.  Comes in 2 color morphs: rufous (red) and gray.  Feather tufts on head and yellow eyes.

Habitat: Open wooded areas and orchards.  Cavity nester and will use a nest box

Diet: Mice and other small mammals, insects (moths, crickets, katydids), frogs, toads, crayfish, and birds up to the size of a Blue Jay.

Voice: Sounds like the whinny of a horse followed by a series of trill notes with a tremolo.  Listen to Eastern Screech Owl Call.

Age: Already an adult (at least one year old) when she came to us in June 2011.

Injury: Hit by a car.  She is completely blind in her right eye.  She can fly, but she lacks the depth perception needed to catch her prey in the wild.


Barred Owl   Strix varia

barred owlDescription: 16–25 inch long owl with a 38-49 inch wingspan, dark brown and white bar pattern on chest, belly and throat.  Eyes are dark.

Habitat: River bottom habitat and swamp, wooded areas near streams, ponds, lakes and wetlands. Cavity nester.

Diet: Mice, rats and other small mammals up to the size of a squirrel, birds up to size of a crow, crayfish, frogs, toads and snakes.

Voice: Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all? When first wakes up for night it makes a loud “whoa” sound. Two or more barred owls calling together may sound like monkeys howling.  Listen to Barred Owl Call.

Age: Already an adult (at least one year old) when she came to us in 1995.

Injury:  Hit by a car. Her left wing was removed up at the shoulder.  She cannot fly.


Bald Eagle  Haliaeetus leucocephalus


Description: 28-40 inches long, wingspan of 6–7 feet and has a dark brown body, white head and tail.

Habitat: Lakes, rivers, wetlands, seacoasts. Nests in the forks of large trees.

Diet: Fish, waterfowl and large birds, mammals. They are scavengers, and they are frequently seen eating roadkill and stealing fish from Ospreys.

Voice: Harsh squeaky sound.  Listen to Bald Eagle Call.

Age: Hatched in the spring of 2011.  Came to us in February 2012.

Injury: Found drinking from a backyard pool in Wisconsin.  It was severely underweight and completely blind in its left eye.



American Kestrel   Falco sparvarius

kestrel back close up 2014Description: North America’s smallest falcon. 8-12 inches tall and has a 20-24 inch wingspan. The male has slate blue wings and head.  Rusty red back with black spotting and a rusty red tail with a black band on tip. The females’ back, wings and tail are rusty red with dark bars.  Both have 2 black, vertical facial stripes and eyespots on the back of their heads.

Habitat: Open meadows, fields, grasslands, farm fields, urban parks with open space and a few trees.

Diet: Mice and other small mammals, insects (grasshopper, cricket and dragonfly), small reptiles and birds up to the size of a European Starling.

Voice: High pitched killi, killi, killi.   Listen to Kestrel call.

Age:  Hatched in the Spring of 2013.  Came to us in 2014.

Injury: Gunshot injury to its left wing.  Can fly, but not well.



Red-tailed Hawk   Buteo jamaicensis

red tailDescription: 18–26 inch long hawk has a 38-56 inch wingspan.  It is brown and mottled with white.

It has a white chest and spotted band across its belly, with a rusty red tail with a black terminal band.

Habitat: Open fields, meadows, highway shoulders, medians right of ways, open scrubby and shrubby areas and forest edge or open forest.

Diet: Mice, rats, voles, squirrels, other small mammals, birds up to size of crow and snakes.

Voice: keeeeer (descending downward).  Listen to Red-tailed Hawk Call.

Age: At least 4 years old in 2010.

Injury: Broken wing from flying into tractor equipment buried in tall grass.  Vet treated her injury which healed, but she can not fly directly to heights and tree tops like prior to the injury.


Barn Owl   Tyto alba

barn owlDescription: 13-16 inches long with a 3-4 foot wingspan.  slender owl with rounded head and white heart shaped face (facial disc), white to tan chest with black dots.  Light brown back with black and white spotting.  Females are darker and have more spotting on the chest.

Habitat:  Likes open habitats like fields, meadows, marshs, and agricultural lands.  Nests in a hollow cavity and will use abandoned buildings like silos and barns as well as caves.

Diet:  Mice, voles, shrews, rats, young rabbits other small mammals and birds.

Voice: High pitched scream, raspy hissing, high pitched metallic clicking or cluck-like sound.  Listen to Barn Owl Call.

Age:  Hatched in 2009 or earlier.  Came to us in 2016.

Injury: Found with a broken left wing in Baltimore County.   She is unable to fly because part of her wing had to be removed.


 In Memoriam  – Tayac  1979 – 2017

tayacperchingTayac lived a long life, and he will be missed by everyone who had the opportunity to meet him.

Tayac was the only raptor who lived at NCEEC with a “real” name.  He was given his name by NCEEC founder Cal Posey, in honor of his lifelong friend, Piscataway Indian Chief Turkey Tayac.

Age: Banded as a nestling in 1979 at approximately 2 months of age.  Passed away on January 13, 2017.

Injury:  Gunshot injury.  Shot in 1988.  Half of his right wing was removed.