Baltimore Orioles are birds that you can hear singing during the spring in eastern North America. Usually from nearby gardens or treetops, you can hear these birds sing melodious tunes, or you may even spot their blazing orange plumage. From April to May, Baltimore Oriole migration commences. You can see many of these birds flying together in flocks.
Baltimore Orioles can be enticed into a bird-feeding backyard because they feed on fruits and nectar, which can be easily provided. Baltimore Orioles are a black color that you can find often in eastern North America. They are named after the coat-of-arms of Lord Baltimore, as their color resembles that of Lord Baltimore.
Males and females of this species look different, the adult male has bright colors, and both of them are distinguishable by the distinctive markings. The Baltimore Oriole doesn’t feed on bird seeds. Read on to know all about Baltimore Oriole and the Baltimore Oriole migration.
Identifying the Baltimore Oriole
An average Baltimore Oriole is around 17 to 22 cm tall. They have a wingspan of 23 to 32 cm. They have a thick pointed beak enabling them to feed on nectar and fruits. The Robin-shaped sturdy body, long legs, and a long tail give them a typical build of an icterid. The average body weight of a Baltimore Oriole is 33.8 g. The male birds tend to be a little larger than the females. The body weight can range from 22.3 to 42 g. By the icterids standards, the size dimorphism is
The underparts of the male’s body are orange, including the shoulder patch and the ramp. This orange on the plumage appears as if blazing for some, while for the other birds, it is an orange-yellow hue. The rest of the plumage of the male birds is black. There are white bars on the adult’s wings. The adult female Baltimore Oriole has dark wings, and her plumage is yellowish-brown on the underparts of the body. A pale yellow covers her belly and her breast.
The juvenile Baltimore Oriole has a very similar resemblance to the female adult Baltimore Oriole. The males take up to two years to reach their adult age and develop the prominent characteristics, this happens till the fall of their second year.
Baltimore Orioles are songbirds that have thick necks and thick bills. You can hear them singing whistling tones in the springtime, during seasonal migration. The males usually sing; their tone sounds more like a flute. Their songs usually last 1 or 2 seconds, and in that, there are some notes grouped together and repeated between two to seven times. You can only hear them in the spring because they are defending their breeding ground or territory by singing. During wintertime, breeding does not occur, so these birds don’t sing during this time. The female Baltimore Oriole also sings occasionally. The songs they sing are to communicate with their mate. Mates also sing together as a duet.
To defend their nests from intruders, both males and females give aggressive chatter to drive away the intruder from their nesting area. You can hear this any time of day and many consider it to be a defense response. Listening to this chatter, other Baltimore Orioles also do the same to defend themselves.
Where to Find Baltimore Orioles?
During the summer, the Baltimore Oriole migration route is in Nearctic regions such as eastern Montana and Canadian Prairies through southern Ontario, New Brunswick, and southern Quebec. From the eastern United States to central Mississippi and Alabama as well as northern Georgia.
During winter and seasonal migration, they migrate to Mexico and sometimes the southern coast of the United States. Mainly, the Baltimore Oriole migration route consists of areas that are considered their wintering grounds in Central America and northern South America.
If there are feeders and enough food and water resources all year long in the southern parts of the United States, then there are chances that the Baltimore Orioles would not migrate.
Baltimore Orioles choose habitats that are open woodlands, forest edges, and wooded wetlands, or trees near a river. They particularly do not choose dense foliage. You can find them in the treetops on leafy deciduous trees. These species are very adaptable; they can breed in secondary habitats as well. As long as they have access to the woods, you can find them almost anywhere, for example, suburban areas, parks, farmlands, and orchards.
In Mexico, their wintering areas usually consist of flowering canopy trees on the shades of coffee plantations. You can see them visiting flowering trees and vines for fruits or nectars as these birds are fond of sweet treats.
A Baltimore Orioles’ diet comprises insects, fruits, and nectar. The diet portions and choices differ with each season; for example, in summer during the breeding season, the young ones are fed insects because they are rich in protein. Protein is essential for the growth of young ones. In the spring and the winter, the birds tend to migrate, and for the same reason, they require more energy. As a result, they feed on fruits and nectars. These are rich in fat and help in
providing energy for Baltimore Oriole migration.
Baltimore Orioles have caused many damages to the fruit crops such as bananas, raspberries, mulberries, cherries, and oranges. For this reason, many farmers consider them pests. Baltimore Orioles feed on various insects; some are moths, spiders, beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, and snails. Also, some small invertebrates are also included in their diet. Not only insects, but Baltimore Orioles also feed on many pest species, such as gypsy moth caterpillars,
spiny elm caterpillars, tent caterpillars, fall webworms, and lastly, larvae with plant galls.
As Baltimore Orioles live on the treetops and search for fruits, flowers, and insects, they aren’t easily visible. However, you can always hear them making their defending chatters or singing their melodious songs during the breeding period. When they are lower down, you may find them in vines and bushes or feeding on a Hummingbird feeder.
The Baltimore Orioles are acrobatic foragers. You can often see them combing through high branches in search of fruits, insects, and flowers. They fly out of perches, snatching insects flying in the air.
The blazing plumage and the soulful songs are the most distinctive features of Baltimore Orioles. Both males and females flutter among the leaves. It is not very difficult to lure the Baltimore Oriole, as they are easily attracted to the feeders that consist of fruits and nectar.
Baltimore Orioles only defend the space near the nests. Unlike the other birds who mark and defend their territories. In fact, Baltimore Orioles feed very close to each other. In the breeding period, the males display by hopping around the females and exposing their blazing orange side. If a female wants to respond to this, she will fan her tail, flutter and lower her wings, and make a chattering call.
Breeding and Nesting
The breeding season for Baltimore Orioles starts in late April to the end of May. The male Baltimore Orioles arrive prior, usually two to three days before the females, in order to mark the territory in the breeding ground.
They constantly sing from above the treetops to attract a female. This singing goes on till they find a mate. Some birds sing even in the night until they find a mate; however, the Baltimore Orioles do not sing in the night, unlike the Northern mockingbird. If you find a bird singing at the end of the season, they are generally immature birds or birds who have not yet found a mate. The singing discontinues as soon as the male finds a mate; this is a bird migration pattern. After the mating, the nesting starts immediately. The males start to defend the territories or the nest areas as a process of nesting.
Their nests are made in higher branches, securing it to the fork of a slender branch. Females are involved in securing the higher branches. The nests hang from a vertical tree branch. The Baltimore Oriole nests are usually very distinctive. They are woven together by the females from slender fibers. The nest is two to three inches deep with a tiny opening; it is about two to three inches wide on the upper area, while the lower area is three to four inches, keeping sufficient space for her eggs.
The materials used to make the nest are usually strips of grapevine bark, horsehair, wool, grass, cellophane, twine, and or fishing line. Females recycle these fibers when building another nest. While males usually gather the materials for their nests. However, weaving is solely done by the females. These nests can take up to a week to build, but if weather conditions become unfavorable and it starts raining or the wind picks up, then it may take 15 days.
Why do Baltimore Orioles Migrate?
Baltimore Orioles essentially migrate for several reasons, such as for breeding, finding favorable habitats with optimum weather conditions, food resources, water resources, and nesting areas. The spring migration is for the Baltimore Orioles to breed and lay eggs. While the winter migration period is used to find shelter in a place that has favorable weather conditions.
Migration Routes and Patterns
The bird migration pattern of Baltimore Oriole is such that they follow a migration path that has abundant nectar and fruit resources to conserve energy. In the spring migration, the migration route is Texas and central states. On the bird migration map, you can observe that they reach the Northern states to Louisiana through central Canada in late May to begin nesting.
In the winter, the Baltimore Orioles use the tropical migration path. They fly back to the South, in Mexico or Florida, Central America, and the northern part of South America.
Some stragglers stay back in their breeding grounds even during the winter. However, scientists say that some survive the harsh winters, some die due to the severe conditions.
The Baltimore Orioles population has been reducing over the years, and Canada has experienced a 3% loss in the population of Baltimore Oriole. Between the years 1966 and 2010, there has been a loss of 24%, which was stated in the North American Breeding Bird Survey. They have rated a 10 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. As of now, the Baltimore Oriole is not on the 2012 watch list. The Baltimore Oriole is prone to habitat loss as the migration route occurs through North America. In winter in Central and South America, these habitats are at risk of deforestation.
The conservation of Baltimore Orioles requires international cooperation. Insecticides sprayed on the trees pose a danger to Baltimore Oriole, as they can die from poisoning or starvation as the insect population decreases. Since Baltimore Orioles reside in the cities and travel at night, they are at risk of crashing into skyscrapers, tall structures, and radio towers especially if there are distracting lights or big rainstorms.
Even though Baltimore Orioles are considered pests to many bird feeders, it is necessary to understand that in order to lure a species or protect them, we cannot put the population of the other species in danger.
You need balance in biodiversity. Otherwise, nature is in grave danger. For this reason, insecticides or any other unsustainable methods are dangerous for many species. Baltimore Orioles are very easily enticed in urban areas, and thereby we need to learn to co-exist.
On the bright side, Maryland has made Baltimore Oriole its state bird. Maryland protects these birds and has done so since 1882, even before the Migratory Bird Treaty Act was in place. It is good to see that people are contributing their bit towards wildlife conservation. A birder can contribute a bit by creating a separate corner in their birdwatching backyard, especially for Baltimore Orioles to increase their population. You can set goals to bird-watch for these Orioles and record your results.