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Wolf Bay Osprey/Owl Cam FAQs
Great Horned Owls
Why did the owls “steal” the osprey’s nest?
It is actually very common for owls to use nests built by other species. Great horns also use cavities in trees, cliffs, and ledges for their nests. Great horns generally use one nest per year, as they cause a lot of wear and tear on the nest, although it is possible the they may use it again next year. It is also possible that the ospreys may return the next year and retake the nest.
How many eggs do great horns lay?
On average, great horns lay two eggs, but they can lay one to five eggs. They usually only have one brood per season, although they will lay more eggs if the original clutch is taken or destroyed.
How long is the incubation period?
On average, great horned owls incubate their eggs for about 30-37 days.
How old are the owls when they fledge?
Young owlets start fledging around 6-8 weeks old.
What do great horned owls eat?
Great horned owls are generalists and therefore eat just about anything. They have a wide range of prey, from small rodents, to large birds such as herons. A great horns diet consists of about 90% mammals,10% birds, and herptiles and insects. Owls also get moisture from their prey, so they do not have to drink often.
How can they eat bones and fur/feathers?
Great horns swallow small prey whole, bones and all. They have very strong stomach acid that breaks down the bones to extract important nutrients, and any indigestible parts of the prey are regurgitated as a pellet.
Where do ospreys usually nest?
Ospreys build nests at the tops of trees, and oftentimes on manmade structures, such as telephone poles, service towers, or nest platforms made specifically for it. Established pairs oftentimes return to previous nest sites.
How many eggs do ospreys lay?
On average, ospreys lay three eggs, but they can lay one to four eggs. They only lay one clutch per season, regardless of whether the original clutch is taken or destroyed.
How long is the incubation period?
Ospreys usually begin laying eggs in late April.On average, they incubate their eggs for about 35-42 days.
How old are the Ospreys when they fledge?
Young osprey chicks start fledging around 7-8 weeks old.
What do Ospreys eat?
Ospreys are piscivores, meaning they almost exclusively eat fish. This is how they got the nickname “fish hawk”. Ospreys hunt in both fresh and saltwater.
Great Horned Owls and Ospreys
Do great horned owls and ospreys mate for life?
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.
No one is sitting on the eggs or young. Won’t they get cold?
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.
How come one egg of the clutch hasn’t hatched when the others have?
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.
Which parent sits on the nest?
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.
Why is the bigger chick picking on the little one?
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.
Are the birds in danger of freezing to death on cold nights?
No, temperatures in southern Alabama rarely get cold enough to cause concern.
Why is the bird standing on one leg?
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.
Do you ever intervene if one chick is not doing well?
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.