They have appeared again and we do not know where they came from. A neighbor who is really into birds told my wife to put out some grape jelly and we would see a beautiful bird come and feed on the grape jelly. It is the Baltimore Oriole. The oriole is a singer with a rich whistling song that echoes from tree tops and parks. Now the birds are in our neighborhood. We always thought this bird lived in the eastern states, but here it is in Iowa. The male has brilliant orange plumage while the female appearance is much more subdued.
Besides the Baltimore Oriole, we are also being visited by the Orchard Oriole. A smaller bird, the male is brick red with a solid black tail. First year males have a well defined black bib. The female has a greenish yellow rather than the orange – yellow breast. Their song is a medley of melodious whistles and flute like notes, quite different from the short phrases of the Baltimore. They migrate in July to August, so we do not expect to see them much longer.
Male Orchard Oriole
Female Orchard Oriole
We live on a golf course and there are no great stands of trees in our neighborhood. However, to the west of our location is a wooded area. It is here, we assume, they have built their nests. The female weaves a hanging nest from slender fibers. We intend to hike over to the wooded areas and search for the nests.
The name of the bird is based on the crest of England’s Baltimore family, and has the same colors of orange and black plumage. The family also gave the name to Maryland’s largest city.
Their breeding grounds are considered to be in the eastern and east central United States. Iowa is far from being considered east central, but here they are. We continue to enjoy the singing of the birds and the brilliant colors of the male as they eat grape jelly from a feeder placed on our deck. Besides the jelly in our feeder, they feed on insects and forage for fruits in brush and shrubbery. We are very interested to see how long they will be with us, as they winter in Central America and will inhabit the coffee and cocoa plantations in those regions.
Baltimore Orioles eat insects, fruit, and nectar. Some orioles in our neighborhood have been seen eating oranges that have been set out for them. However, they seem to prefer grape jelly. Their preference for each food varies by season: in summer, while breeding and feeding their young, much of the diet consists of insects, which are rich in the proteins needed for growth. In spring and fall, nectar and ripe fruits compose more of the diet as these sugary foods supply energy for migration. Baltimore Orioles eat a wide variety of insects, including beetles, crickets, grasshoppers, moths, and flies, as well as spiders. They are also helpful in our neighborhoods by eating many pest species, including tent caterpillars, gypsy moth caterpillars, fall webworms, and spiny elm caterpillars.
This spring has unseasonably chilly weather and the birds are really chowing down on the grape jelly. We put out our hummingbird feeders, but none of them have showed due to the cold weather. When it warms up, they will return.