Welcoming Back the Orioles

Welcoming Back the Orioles

Posted April 27, 2022

It’s hard to miss the return of the Baltimore Orioles. The distinctive song of the male is loud and clear, whistling and flute-like, and he sports a bold pattern of black and bright orange, easy to see in the tree tops.

Baltimore Orioles are members of the blackbird family, named for their resemblance to the black and gold heraldry of Lord Baltimore in the 1600s. Males have black heads, backs, and wings, with bright orange underneath and on their tails. Females and young Orioles are more drab, a pale yellow or tan.  Both sexes have white wing bars.

Orioles spend their winters in warmer climates: Florida, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and return to Massachusetts sometime in mid-April to mid-May. As you are reading this, they may be back in your neighborhood (as I write this, it’s mid-April and there’s no sign of them yet).

When the Orioles arrive from their long journey, they are tired and hungry! If you would like them to hang out in your yard while they rest up, they have some favorite foods. First of all, they are attracted to the color orange, and there are bright Oriole feeders to help attract them . They like orange slices, grape jelly, and sugar/water nectar (1 part sugar to 4 parts water, same as the hummingbirds). You can also offer grapes, bananas, berries and cherries. At some point their dietary needs change, and they need more protein, which is usually insects and berries they find on their own. You can offer mealworms to try to keep them around.

Orioles build hanging basket-like nests and raise one brood of chicks. By July, they will start the long migration south again. Their visit with us is a short one, but one I look forward to seeing them every year, ready with a fresh jar of grape jelly!

Written by Dee Jepson, WLT Member

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