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It’s in your nature: Orioles

Our area has just been recharging with a wide array of spring arriving birds. One of the most brilliantly feathered is the Baltimore oriole. Not too far behind in the beauty department is a close “relative,” the orchard oriole. Now is the best time before all trees have their full foliage to get better “looks.”

The Baltimore oriole males arrive in our area about the last week of April. They are not introverted, so their presence will probably be revealed first by their rather vocal songs.

Females will arrive about a week or 10 days later. The female oriole is one of the most intricate nest builders. She utilizes natural long fibers, like grape vine material, or even horse hair, fishing line, yarn, etc. to build a hanging nest. It will take her 7 to 10 days to build that nest from the fork of thin limbs usually 40 or more feet in the air.

The thin limbs help deter nest marauders from working their way there to feast on the four to six eggs. They have one brood per season. For several years I hung some lengths of yarn on some trees in my yard knowing that a pair regularly chose my large silver maple for their nests. Not too surprisingly, her nest was partially constructed with my offerings.

Once all the eggs have been laid, you could expect the young to leave the nest in 28 to 30 days. Orioles do not remain in the Times News area long and are one of the earliest migrants. Some overwinter in southern Florida, while most head farther south to Mexico, Central America and the northern edge of South America.

While in our region they feed on insects in particular, especially while feeding this protein-rich food to the young. However, they will eat flower nectar, some fruits and even my cake suet blocks. They are particularly fond of fruit, especially after the young leave the nest, and in winter eat almost all fruit. Orioles are much like miniature parrots, sometimes hanging upside down to garner insects from the underside of leaves or to get to the nectar in plants like trumpet creeper. Remember though, they are not a deep forest bird like a scarlet tanager, they prefer field edges, more open deciduous woodlots, and even big city parks like Allentown would offer.

The orchard oriole is little bigger than 7 inches in size compared to the almost 8½ inch Baltimore oriole. Besides size, their colors are chestnut and black. (They are not as gaudy as their cousins)

Orchard orioles prefer areas that are moister and more likely seen near a stream edge, edge of a marshy area, or closer to a lake shore. Both the orchard oriole and Baltimore oriole females lack the bright males’ colors with the orchard oriole female basically light greenish in color with the corresponding black like the males.

While Baltimore orioles nest well into southern Canada as well as our area, the orchard oriole’s northern range is just about the Pennsylvania and New York state area. Orchard orioles’ nests are not as “basket like” but again built on thinner limb forks. They also migrate rather early and don’t expect to see either species much after mid to late July.

Both species numbers, as most songbirds, are dropping. Again, mostly because of reduced overwintering areas in the tropics. The Baltimore oriole’s preference for fruit has caused them to be disliked in fruit growing areas too. I had an early ripening peach variety and was surprised to see a small migrating group of orioles enjoying their tasty flesh.

If you have suitable habitat for orioles, I suggest you continue restocking your suet block feeder, buy an oriole feeder (similar to a hummingbird feeder), or place some oranges cut in halves on some shrub branches. Enjoy both of these beautiful oriole species.

Test Your Outdoor Knowledge: Why do you think the Baltimore oriole doesn’t nest in a Norway or blue spruce tree?

Last Week’s Trivia: Generally eight species of flycatchers nest here with one or two other species possible.

Contact Barry Reed at breed71@gmail.com.

Baltimore orioles, as expected, feed on many insects, but nectar and fruit are important mainstays in their diet. This oriole made visits to my hummingbird feeder. BARRY REED/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
About an inch and a half smaller then the Baltimore oriole, the orchard oriole is chestnut colored, not bright orange like its cousins. This male has claimed his territory along Lizard Creek.
Still securely attached to a red maple limb, a Baltimore oriole nest is intertwined with plant fibers and sometimes string or twine. It could take a female up to two weeks to build this sturdy basket-shaped nest.
A male Baltimore oriole feeds in a Bradford pear tree.
A female Baltimore oriole is a washed yellow color. She still displays the oriole's characteristic wing bars.