Opinion Column

Birdwatch: Baltimore Oriole recently spotted in the area

Ken Hooles

By Ken Hooles, Daily Observer

Brian Lasenby/Getty images
Female Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula) feeding on an orange, taken in Ontario, Canada.

Brian Lasenby/Getty images Female Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula) feeding on an orange, taken in Ontario, Canada.


I have received a few requests over the last couple of months to write an article on the Baltimore Oriole. Around this time of year, some of you may see some of these beautiful birds in your area. The ones that are you are viewing now are Orioles returning from further points north on their migration south. Among them are also some of the new fledglings from our area getting ready for their first journey south.

The Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula) is one of our most beautiful and fascinating birds. This attractive bird has undergone several name changes over the years. In the distant past, the Baltimore Oriole was nicknamed the “Yellow Robin”. It first obtained its official name of Baltimore Oriole around the time of the early settlers in the state of Maryland. These settlers named the bird after Lord Baltimore who was the financier of the Maryland Settlement and who enjoyed wearing bright colours such as orange and black. A few years ago, the Baltimore Oriole was renamed the Northern Oriole, which is the name now listed in many of the modern bird guides. However, recently, the scientific community has renamed the bird back to Baltimore Oriole.

The Baltimore Oriole enjoys the open country and is often seen in sheltered groves of Elm, Popular or Birch trees. This bird is a solitary bird except during breeding season. In the winter, it may be seen with other species foraging for food. The Baltimore Oriole is primarily an insect eater. It feeds on caterpillars, grasshoppers, beetles, some fruit and berries. During cold periods, such as we experience sometimes at the end of May and occasionally June, the above insects are not available and the Orioles must seek alternative food sources. For this reason, they are often seen at Hummingbird feeders trying to feed on the nectar. There are some commercial Oriole feeders and nectar that can attract these birds during these periods. Another successful method is to cut an orange in half and nail it to a tree.

The Oriole is approximately eight inches long and is part of the Blackbird family. The male Oriole is easily identified, as it is rich orange with a black head, back, wings and part of its tail. The female of the species is a much duller orange with smooth shades of brown and a dull olive-coloured back and head.

The Oriole builds one of nature’s most elaborate nests. It consists of a bag woven with fibres, plant down, hairs, and string. The nest is often found hanging at the end of a long, drooping branch. Due to its sturdy construction, the Baltimore Oriole’s nest has been known to last for several years.

This Oriole has only one brood per year. The female incubates the eggs of this bird for 12 to14 days. The young remain in the nest for another 12 to 14 days and are fed by both parents.

These birds are located throughout Eastern North America. In Canada, they extend west to the Rockies and north as far as the Central Prairies. In the fall these bird migrate south to Florida, Eastern Mexico and parts of Central and South America.

On the local scene, the migration continues with the staging and massing of several of our bird species. You may have seen several flocks of Double-crested Cormorants flying or staging on our rivers and lakes. The Blackbirds and Robins continue to stage in both small and large groups throughout the area. The Common Nighthawks are in the late stages of their migration out of the county and southward. You may have also noticed that several of the sparrow species are also becoming more active and are being found in small pockets. These pockets include a variety of sparrows including White-throated Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Swamp and the odd clay-coloured and Lincoln Sparrow.

In addition, there are also several small pockets of migrating song birds throughout our area. These groups often consists of a variety of warblers, vireos, the off female Tanager and migrating Baltimore Orioles. In these groups are some of the migrating warblers such as Wilson’s, Cape May and Bay-breasted. However, we are not getting the number of warblers that are being seen in the Ottawa region.

Finally, the Ottawa River water levels are quite high and this is hindering our chances of getting shorebirds. Most of these northern migrants are passing overhead on their way south.

On Aug. 22, Don Krantz of Barry Street observed a Nashville Warbler in fall plumage in his flower bed. Nice sighting Don and great photos of the bird!

Finally, on Aug. 25, Cathy van Starkenburg of Micksburg spotted a Baltimore Oriole in her yard. The Oriole was only passing through and she has not seen him since. In addition, Cathy has recently had a few Great-crested Flycatchers for a couple of weeks but they too have moved on south. Nice sightings Cathy!

Please call me with your bird sightings at 613-735-4430 or email me at hooles@bell.net. For more information on upcoming nature events or other links to nature just Google the Pembroke and Area Field Naturalists website or like us on Facebook.

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