Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Icterus Galbulas Are Back!

I hear them before I see them, and their bright, beautiful song is what announces their return.  One calls and the other answers.  I scour the trees, looking for their bright orange feathers.  And there they are, usually in a pair - the Baltimore Orioles.

We first spotted the orioles in one of the maple trees that gave us sap for syrup a couple of months ago.

They come every year and make their home in our trees, usually the half-oak in the back yard.  It's a very tall, very old oak tree that lost half itself in a storm several years ago.  Winds can be fierce in this part of the Midwest, which is why the tree split down the middle.  It's also why the oriole's nest blew out of the tree one year, in spite of the magnificent way they build their pocket nests to survive such things.

This one was making a snack of the oak tree's catkins.

It was a very windy day today, which kept me from going to the garden to work up the soil and get some seeds planted.  It would have been a challenge to get the seeds in the ground without them blowing away.  But later in the day when the winds had died down a little, I walked out to take an account of what still needs to be done in the way of clean-up.

Baltimore Oriole
Icterus galbula

And then I heard them, singing louder than a robin, more melodious than the cardinals, and a far cry from the monotonous woodpecker's trill.  I hadn't grabbed my glasses on the way out, so I had to employ the eyes of my husband to locate them high in the trees.  We were quite the pair, since he has hearing issues and there I was, only able to really focus well at a distance of about five feet.  But between the two of us, we found them - two males - first in the maple tree, and then the oak.

It was windy, but this guy was fluffing himself up on purpose.
Baltimore orioles are only found here in spring and summer, migrating south to Mexico and northern South America for winter.  It's common for them to return to the same nesting area each year, but they seldom will use the same nest.  They may take bits and pieces from an old nest however, when constructing the new one.

We have an oriole feeder, which has small trays for jelly and spindles for hanging fresh fruit, such as orange halves.  Orioles have a definite sweet tooth, but they also eat many insects.

In past years, they've stayed just long enough to nest and raise a family, before moving on to another location.  But while they're here, I'll enjoy their symphony of song.  I'll remember to put my glasses on before heading outside too, because I enjoy seeing them as much as I do hearing them.

Want to hear how they sound?  (YouTube video from iwanderpaths.)


Ewa said...

Looks splendid :) Thanks for sharing the video, I was so curious how it sounds :)

Emilia Cross said...

We have seen an oriole in our yard feasting on the mulberries in our mulberry tree here in West Toledo. It's been back two summers in a row and we hope to see one again this year. It must nest nearby and just flies in and out of our mulberry tree daily when the berries are out. It was very exciting the first year we caught sight of those orange leaves! Thanks for all the info.. didn't realize they were en route to Mexico/South America.. how cool they stop here to stay hello!

Kylee Baumle said...

Ewa ~ I'm not sure I'd notice their song among all the other bird singing we have, if it wasn't so much louder than the others. You definitely pay attention when they're around!

Emilia ~ Oh, I'm so jealous that you have a mulberry tree! Our neighbor had one when I was growing up and I ate LOTS of them when they were in season. Yum! And how perfect for feeding fruit-loving birds like the orioles! They like to stay high in the trees so maybe they're living closer than you think. ;-)

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