The Orchard Oriole

This Baltimore oriole relative is a little bird with a pleasant voice 

As spring gets into full gear, more animals are waking up or returning from their winter homes. Eagles and owls, having laid eggs in the winter, are more visible as they rush to feed their chicks. Hawks are just starting their nesting behavior. Foxes are fixing up dens for the soon-to-arrive litter. The birds coming from winter homes are starting to develop colorful plumage, courtship colors. One such colorful bird that nests in our area is the oriole. The most famous, of course, is the Baltimore oriole. But the more common one is the orchard oriole.  

The orchard oriole is the smallest of the oriole family. The females have a yellowish tint, sporting darker wings with short white stripes. Their bills are fairly pointed and a dark tan color. The males have the same bill shape but are mostly black with the bottom bill a steel blue at the base. The males are the flashy ones with a black head, back, tail and wings with burnt orange on the chest. 

All orioles build hanging woven nests. I have watched an orchard oriole female slowly pull multiple two-foot strips of grapevine bark and weave it into the nest. 

If you learn their lyrical songs, they become even easier to find. Their usual song is like they are asking a question with the end of the song going up in pitch, similar to other orioles. 

They eat mostly insects but are also fond of fruit and are usually found at the edge of forests or in new growth forests. I look for them around cherry trees, mulberry trees and blackberry brambles.  

Orioles can be enticed to a feeder with orange slices, grape jam, shelled peanuts and dried mealworms. They will eat some suet. Having a fruit tree nearby really helps.  

I have found orchard orioles at Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary, Kinder Farm Park, Terrapin Park and Patuxent Wildlife Sanctuary.