Bird of the Week #15: Baltimore Oriole

Baltimore Oriole Eats a Bug

I almost gave up. I told this story already in an update, but it bears repeating. I had the Baltimore Oriole set up as a Bird of the Week months ago and had to keep bumping it over and over. I set up an Oriole Feeder complete with oranges and grape jelly, the stuff they love. But they never came. I kept waiting and waiting, but the jelly remained untouched. I figured that if they hadn’t found my feeder by now, they wouldn’t this year and I would just have to try again.

I tossed the oranges into the field and put the oriole feeder away. Oh well.

I got to work cleaning out the rest of the feeders, as I am adamant gets done, and when I sat down to let everything dry, a beautiful black and orange bird landed in the field and started to chow down on the oranges. I couldn’t believe it. An oriole came by after all! I put the oriole feeder back where it belongs. I still have yet to see one use my oriole feeder, but it’s there.

The only other time I’ve seen an oriole in my yard is when a female passed by and grabbed a few mulberries from the tree. That tree has turned into quite the destination!

In the meantime, I sought out alternative means of capturing enough pictures of a Baltimore Oriole to make this post. I took multiple trips to the Sedgwick County Park specifically hunting orioles and I found them! In each instance, the orioles were out looking for fruit or bugs high up in the trees. I grabbed as many shots as I could, with two of the pictures being among my favorites I have ever taken.

The Baltimore Oriole was not named for the city of Baltimore and also not named for the baseball team. Instead, both the bird and city were named for Lord Baltimore, the first propriety of the Province of Maryland (which would later become the state). The bird got its name from its orange color resembling the orange Lord Baltimore’s coat of arms.

In Kansas, the Baltimore Oriole is a summer visitor. Kansas is in the far southwestern corner of their breeding range, so we’re lucky to get these gorgeous Halloween-colored birds. In the winter, they migrate back down south to Central America, South America, and even the southern parts of Florida.

Baltimore Orioles are in the New World blackbird family, meaning they share a family with grackles, meadowlarks, and cowbirds, among others. Funny enough, none of the birds listed are truly black. They also have zero actual relation to the true Common Blackbird from Europe. Bird names can be very confusing.

Baltimore Orioles typically eat a diet of fruits and insects. You can spot them in trees and shrubs, looking for their favorite foods. They really like berries, but only dark ones. Orioles will ignore and light-colored berries, even if it’s perfectly ripe and good to eat. The most common way to get orioles to drop by your yard is to feed them grape jelly. Any dark-colored, sweet jelly should work as the orioles are attracted to both the color and sweetness. Please, try and feed them natural jellies without added sugars as this is healthier for the birds.

Orioles also like orange halves. Orioles will use their beaks like straws to suck all the goodness out of the oranges by stabbing their bills into the fruit and then opening them slightly to suck the juice out. Yum!

In exception for mating season, Orioles will almost always be found alone. While it’s not beyond imagination to see several orioles at once, you’re most likely to just get one visitor at a time.

Orioles won’t nest in nest boxes, so getting an oriole nest is a matter of luck and having the right types of trees around. The females weave a hanging pouch nest out of any plant material they can find. They only do one clutch per year, with usually about four eggs.

Speaking of males and females, the difference between a male and female oriole is easy to spot. The males are a much richer, more reddish orange color. The males also more pronounced black and white parts on their backs, while the females are duller more gray on their backs. You’ll see both the male and female in detail in the gallery below!

Baltimore Orioles are wonderful singers and if you go out looking for them, you’re likely to hear them before you see them. They will probably be high up and might be tough to spot among all the foliage. When you do spot one, you’ll see them moving around a whole bunch, doing all sorts of acrobatics. They’ll go upside down, sideways, and do all sorts of leaping and dangling acts. A hungry oriole can be quite fun to watch!

I’m so excited to be able to show you guys the orioles and tell you about them. Hopefully you’ve learned something! Do you see orioles in your back yards?

Here is the Audubon Society page on the Baltimore Oriole

Here is the Cornell Lab or Ornithology page on the Baltimore Oriole

Please enjoy the mini-gallery below!

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