Feeder Talk

At­tract a pair of vi­brant nec­tar-lov­ing or­chard ori­oles to your back­yard with sweet treats.

Birds & Blooms - - Contents - BY KAITLIN STAINBROOK

Or­chard ori­ole

East of the Rock­ies, an ori­ole that’s smaller and much darker than a Bal­ti­more dashes through the flow­er­ing trees. The bird you’ve spot­ted is prob­a­bly an or­chard ori­ole. The two birds share sim­i­lar mark­ings, but where a male Bal­ti­more ori­ole has a bright pop of or­ange, the or­chard ori­ole sports a darker chest­nut color.

Fe­male or­chard and Bal­ti­more ori­oles look alike, too. They share a warm-hued chest, head and tail feath­ers, but the fe­male Bal­ti­more has touches of tan­ger­ine or­ange while the or­chard’s color runs closer to green­ish yel­low.

Fe­male or­chard ori­oles are the pri­mary nest builders (though their mates may some­times help), con­struct­ing their homes in forks of branches. Over the course of a week, they weave grass and other flex­i­ble plant fibers into a pouch or a bas­ket, then line the nests with softer plant down, feath­ers and the oc­ca­sional piece of yarn.

Un­like some other birds, or­chard ori­oles will share their ter­ri­tory in the sum­mer. In fact, one tree may hold sev­eral nest­ing pairs. They build their homes along­side other bird species, too, such as Amer­i­can robins, eastern king­birds and the look-alike Bal­ti­more ori­oles.

Or­chard ori­oles usu­ally pre­fer open wood­lands, lakeshores, parks, farms and, of course, or­chards. They spend time in tree­tops and bushes where they for­age for in­sects and spi­ders with their sharp, thin beaks. Early May is the per­fect time to at­tract or­chard ori­oles as the hun­gry mi­grants travel north. Just like their Bal­ti­more ori­ole brethren, or­chards have a sweet tooth and drop by back­yards with the right spread of fruit and nec­tar of­fer­ings. They’re even known to stop at sugar-wa­ter feed­ers.

“One great way to at­tract ori­oles is by of­fer­ing or­ange halves. Just stick the or­anges on a nail and en­joy watch­ing the ori­oles feast,” says Emma Greig, the project leader for Project Feed­er­watch of the Cor­nell Lab of Or­nithol­ogy.

Grape jelly is al­ways an ori­ole fa­vorite, but serve it in mod­er­a­tion. If you’re wor­ried about bugs eat­ing more of the jelly than the birds do, Emma has a so­lu­tion. “Try mov­ing jelly feed­ers around your back­yard pe­ri­od­i­cally. Birds will no­tice them in their new lo­ca­tions more quickly than in­sects. And re­mem­ber that in­sects are good crea­tures to have in your yard, espe­cially pol­li­na­tors like bees, so don’t de­spair if they in­sist on hav­ing a small share of the jelly.”

For or­chard ori­oles, mi­gra­tion back to their win­ter homes be­gins in mid-to-late sum­mer, and even as early as mid-july. It’s also when they load up on berries, like ripe mul­ber­ries and choke­ber­ries, to help them on their jour­ney south.

SIG­NA­TURE LOOK More bold than fe­males, male or­chard ori­oles sport black head feath­ers, a burnt or­ange chest, and a black tail and wings with white ac­cents.

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