No, temperatures in Southern Alabama rarely get cold enough to cause concern.
Show All Answers
Yes, both great horns and ospreys are monogamous and generally mate for life. However if one of the pair dies the other will usually find a new mate.
It is normal for parents to leave the eggs and nestlings every so often. The mother rarely stays away long enough to cause harm. Both great horns and ospreys are able to successfully incubate the eggs in extremely cold weather, and great horn eggs have been recorded to withstand parent absence of 20 minutes at -13 degrees.
Great horns and ospreys usually lay an egg every couple days until their clutch is complete, but they start incubating as soon as the first egg is laid. The first eggs have a head start and hatch first, although sometimes an egg may not hatch because it wasn't fertilized or the embryo didn't develop properly.
Only the female incubates the eggs. She has a featherless area on her abdomen called a brood patch, which is specifically designed to keep the eggs warm. The male's job is to bring food for the mother, until the chicks are hatched and old enough that she can also hunt.
This is a natural behavior for nestlings. Sometimes, the aggression is essentially play-fighting, a way for them to practice and hone their skills. Other times, especially when food is scarce, aggression can lead to siblicide. Also, if the parents can sense that one chick is doing better than the other, they may focus all their food, attention, and energy into ensuring that the healthy chick survives. The older chicks may be the only one to survive.
This is common behavior throughout most bird species. They may do this as a heat-saving measure, as a way to reduce fatigue in one leg, or simply just to be comfortable.
Legally we cannot intervene with these birds without very specific permission as are state and federally protected. Sometimes they are predated on, other times only the stronger siblings survive. While it can be difficult to watch, this is nature and it is survival of the fittest.