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Winter can be baby bird season, too

You may remember from a few months back, during the springtime, the Bird Team here at Zoo Atlanta was experiencing what we called a baby bird boom. It was a very exciting time for us, but this boom was nothing too abnormal as springtime is when most birds tend to breed. Now that spring has gone and fall has passed, winter is here. The weather is cold, the trees are bare, and the bugs are gone. Not an ideal time for birds to be laying eggs and raising babies, right? Wrong!

Though it is not considered the norm, there are several native species in North America that lay their eggs in the winter months, including our national bird, the bald eagle. Here at Zoo Atlanta, we house a few non-native species who also find winter to be the perfect time to start a family of their own. The most notable of these species are the hooded vulture, lappet-faced vulture, and milky eagle owl. Our hooded and lappet-faced vulture pairs can be seen working on their large nests as early as November, and sometimes even before then. Our lappet-faced vulture pair in particular takes about 1-2 months to build a goliath nest of sticks that measures six feet in diameter, is three to four feet high, and is strong enough for one of our keepers to climb up and sit on!

Meanwhile, our milky eagle owl pair is preparing to lay a clutch of up to two eggs in a small nest box lined with layers of cushy pine straw. These eggs will then be incubated for about 40 days by the female while the male diligently provides food to his sitting mate, allowing her to focus on warming the clutch rather than worrying about hunting. So, the next time you make a wintertime visit to us here at Zoo Atlanta, keep an eye out for mama owl sitting cozy in her nest box or the giant pile of sticks in the window at the lappet-faced vulture habitat, and remember that wintertime can be baby bird season too!

Katherine B.
Keeper II, Birds


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