So, why would some birds begin nesting in the dead of winter, when the weather is at its coldest and harshest?
“Obviously there are benefits, or the birds wouldn’t do it,” said Jim Ozier, head of the Nongame Conservation Section of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
One reason, said Ozier, a leading eagle expert, is that it takes several months to raise an eaglet or a great horned owlet. The parents must begin nesting early so that, by the time the offspring leave the nest in spring, there will be ample food for them and they can fend for themselves.
Bald eagles, for instance, incubate their eggs for 34 to 36 days. After the babies hatch, it may be another 70 to 95 days before they leave the nest. Great horned owlets also stay with their parents for several months.
In contrast, northern cardinals, which begin nesting in late March, incubate eggs for 12 to 13 days; the young fledge nine to 10 days after hatching. The offspring, however, may still be dependent on adults two to four weeks after they leave the nest.
In the sky: The moon will be new Tuesday, said David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer. Mercury and Venus are very low in the west at dusk. Mercury will appear near the moon Wednesday and Venus will appear near it Thursday. Mars sets in the west a few hours after sunset and will appear near the moon Friday. Jupiter rises out of the east at around 8 p.m. Saturn rises out of the east around 3 a.m.