Sunday, May 15, 2011

Adventures at the Oriole Feeder

I feel a little like Dorothy, when she stepped out of the tornado-tossed Kansas house into the technicolor world of Oz. I've recently written about seeing rose-breasted grosbeaks and blue jays at our feeders for the first time ever. The Baltimore oriole is another colorful bird that has for the most part managed to elude me in my bird-watching, bird-feeding life.

Female oriole perches on the pole below the new feeder
This year, as a Mother's Day/birthday present, Dave found me the one shown below. It has two cups for feeding grape jelly (a highly favored food for orioles) and two blunt spikes for securing orange halves (which they also like, but not as much as grape jelly). Its bright orange color itself attracts orioles just as red attracts hummingbirds, and the clear roof keeps the rain off -- and it's made of recycled plastic.
Female oriole eyes the goods

It's amazing: if the birds are out there and you get the right feeders, they will come. Or at least that seems to be true this year. I think the fact that we've been consistently feeding at this location for almost three years now means that our established birds (like chickadees, house finches and goldfinches) help newcomers realize that there might be something worth checking out. Anyway, we had briefly spotted a couple of orioles in the trees in the preceding days, but within a day or so of putting up the feeder, the orioles started to show themselves.
Male considers his approach
We've seen as many as three male orioles near the feeder at one time, and two females so far. They are protective of access to the feeder, and a bird in possession is likely to chase a same-sex bird away.

There he goes
According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the new-world orioles were named for their resemblance to old-world orioles, but the American birds are not closely related to their namesakes and are much more closely related to blackbirds and meadowlarks. The top photo here is very reminiscent of a red-winged blackbird clinging to a cattail stalk (that's a bullrush, to UK readers), isn't it?

He made it!

Hmmm, we may need to add a squirrel baffle

Yep, we definitely need to add a squirrel baffle


Michael Moore said...

I didn't see any orioles here last year either, but just Friday I had four males sitting on and around the hummingbird feeder. They eventually hopped over to the hopper feeder and munched on some seeds before flying away.

Maybe this deserves its own post, but since you mentioned feeders... What feeder(s) should I get to attract the most types of birds? I don't want to have a thistle feeder and a hummingbird feeder and a suet feeder and a fruit stand and a ground feeder and a peanut cage and ... :-)

Currently we've got a hopper feeder with a cheap mix from Home Depot, and it has served us pretty well. We also have a hummingbird feeder. I'd probably be willing to add one more to the yard if it would attract a group of birds we're not currently attracting - I don't want to add another feeder that is single-species specific though.

Penelope said...

Hi Michael - I guess there's a couple of ways of looking at it: there's the type of feeder and there's also the type of seed (or other food). Part of the analysis could also be what birds you'd like to see more of and what if any you'd like to see less of! A lot of seed mixes have a lot of millet, which is mainly attractive to sparrows. Here's a page from Home Depot that discusses the appeal of different seeds to different birds. Black oil sunflower seed is a popular seed; you might want to keep your mix in the hopper and try just sunflower in a tube-style feeder (Droll Yankee is a good brand). Or if you'd enjoy seeing more woodpeckers and nuthatches (if you have trees around) , you might want to try a suet feeder. The niger/Nyjer/thistle in a sock-style feeder is attractive to a variety of finches -- the goldfinches love it, though they also will eat the sunflower seeds. So there's a long inititial answer -- any of those three options might be good in attracting more than one type of bird. Good luck!

Michael Moore said...

Maybe we'll have to get a suet feeder. My 3 year old is convinced that woodpeckers will peck people, and talks about them all the time. I know woodpeckers are around, but I haven't seen any in the yard yet.

Deb said...

I had two male orioles checking out my hummingbird feeders this morning, so I put an orange half on the base of the hanging sunflower seed feeder. It worked! Also two male rose breasted grosbeaks. What a colorful morning!

Ellada said...

You are lucky to have to see such beautiful birds. And the squirrel is so cut. Nice post.