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This Week’s Creature Feature: Wintering Over

Most Baltimore orioles head south … Not this one

Taken at author Wayne Bierbaum's home in Riva after the first snow this winter.
     This Baltimore oriole failed to migrate. Orioles usually fly down to Central and South America and winter in the warmth. Occasionally a bird will stay behind and tough it out in the cold. I think this is the second year for this bird to winter-over; one of its stops is my backyard in Riva.
      For an adult male bird, wintering over is pretty rare. As I write, e-bird (where thousands of birders report their sightings and bird counts) reports only one Baltimore oriole in all of Maryland, a juvenile seen west of Baltimore on December 23. I have only seen one other oriole in my yard in 28 years of living here and that was for five minutes at the top of a tree. 
      Bluebirds nest in my backyard, and occasionally in the winter I have put out dried mealworms for them. Last year an oriole showed up with the bluebirds. Since it routinely visited a feeder, I felt obliged to help the bird survive the winter and daily put out warmed water, dried mealworms, peanuts, Concord grape spread and suet. It refuses fruit. A neighbor helps when I can’t.
      Last year the oriole stayed until mid-April when the redbud trees were in full bloom.
      Baltimore orioles are threatened by habitat destruction in South and Central America, where they winter. They are common around the Finger Lakes region of New York and along the Great Lakes. They can easily be found by their beautiful song.
     Read about them at All About Birds, a Cornell University Ornithology website. 

Down here in Chesapeake Beach, we noticed our wintering Orioles 3 winters ago. Haven't seen the males this year but the females love the grapes we put out for them.