The Baltimore Oriole

May 22, 2013

The Baltimore Oriole, one of the most colorful songbirds in our area can be found at Mount Auburn Cemetery from late April through September. A preference for open spaces with tall trees makes Mount Auburn the perfect destination for an Oriole and an ideal place for them to nest – as many as 12 pair have been noted to reside at the Cemetery during the breeding season.

The male Baltimore Oriole is flame orange and black – the colors of Lord Baltimore’s coat-of-arms from where the name is derived. The female is similar to the male, but more subdued in color and it lacks the solid black head of the male.

As soon as the male orioles arrive they begin to sing continually – while setting up their territory and attracting the attention of female birds. In the first week of May, orioles can be heard throughout the Cemetery – their song is loud, clear and flute-like, making it hard to believe that they could be members of the blackbird family. If you listen closely each male oriole has a slightly different song – female orioles also sing, although not as frequently or with the complexity of the males.

Shortly after the female orioles arrive, nest building begins. The nest, built by the female, is a hanging pouch about six inches long that is suspended at the end of a branch. Woven of plant fibers, hair and sometimes yarn or ribbon, the nests are very sturdy and will often hold up through the winter, although a new nest is built each year.

Both the male and female assist in feeding the young which usually will leave the nest within 12 to 14 days after hatching.  At this time, the male is nearly silent, singing very infrequently, perhaps to become less conspicuous to predators such as crows, grackles or Blue Jays.

In early May two white flowering trees on Lime Avenue attract not only orioles but quite a few photographers vying for the perfect Baltimore Oriole photo. You can easily attract orioles to your own backyard.  They especially like orange halves that can be placed on a platform feeder or nailed to a tree.  Orioles can also be attracted to sugar water, and they are additionally very fond of grape jelly.

Photo by Sandy Selesky

About the Author: Bob Stymeist

Bob Stymeist is Bird Observer's Bird Sightings Compiler and a regular bird walk leader for the Friends of Mount Auburn. View all posts by Bob Stymeist →

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