Bird Sightings

I hope everyone had a great Fourth of July. Pete and I spent the holiday weekend (along with my mom) in Saginaw, Michigan, visiting with my brother, Mike, and his wife, MaryJo. We had a great time: good food, good company, and great bird watching. Mike’s house is located near a golf course that has lots of tall trees, and his backyard has several mature trees including a towering walnut tree. There are also a lot of shrubs that offer sanctuary for many kinds of birds along with several different kinds of bird feeders.

As we sat at the dinner table, MaryJo noticed a yellow bird on the backyard patio that she assumed to be one of the goldfinches that we had seen earlier in the day. But when Pete looked at the bird, he realized to his wonderment that this Baltimore or Northern Oriole pairbird was a female Baltimore oriole. This was really exciting, mainly because none of us (except for Pete), had never seen one in the wild. With the aid of binoculars we each got the chance to see this most beautiful bird. Imagine our surprise, then, when a male oriole came flying in, too! The male is a different color than the female, a bright orange, and very hard to miss. (Note: there are several names for this oriole, including the Baltimore Oriole and the Northern Oriole. Cornell University’s Ornithology Lab calls it a Baltimore Oriole, so I am using that name.)

So with both a male and female Baltimore oriole in the yard, we went to the Internet to see what we could do to provide food. I went to my favorite Cornell University site for some basic information about habitat and food (mostly insects), and that the birds overwinter in tropical areas including Mexico, Central America and northern South America. They come up north to spend the summers to breed. Also, they aren’t true orioles (called such because they resembled similar-looking birds in the Old World) and are more closely related to meadowlarks and blackbirds. A little more digging informed us that these lovely birds are attracted by oranges and grape jelly. Yes, grape jelly. So I got an orange, cut it in half, and stuck it to Mike’s fence, having no grape jelly in the house. Of course, neither bird noticed this treat. The squirrels in Mike’s yard, on the other hand, easily found the sweet oranges.

I’ll have to talk to my brother to see if the orioles have come back and whether they’ve started eating oranges or grape jelly. The one orange that wasn’t devoured by the Caterpillarsquirrels had peck marks in it. Having never seen these amazing birds, it was so special to see them on the wing. Pete said that the habitat in that part of Saginaw was favorable as these orioles need large, mature trees in which to search for insects. Pete also says that we can attract these birds to our arboretum, too, because we want to plant a lot of oak trees, which harbor many caterpillars that are great food for orioles.

Until next time!

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