The Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula) is a medium-sized bird, bright orange and black with distinct white stripes on its wings. The male oriole is larger and has brighter coloration than its female counterpart. The Baltimore oriole has a sturdy build and a long tail. The Baltimore oriole got its name because its coloration matches the Coat of Arms of Lord Baltimore. The Baltimore Oriole was named as Maryland’s State Bird in 1947, and when the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team moved to Baltimore in 1954, they changed their name to the Baltimore Orioles.
Baltimore orioles prefer open woodlands and can often times be spotted in parks, forest edges, orchards, around swamps, rivers, or old fields. These birds prefer large deciduous trees such as maple, elm, and cottonwood and normally are found in the upper reaches of the trees. Orioles are mostly solitary birds except during the mating season. The female oriole makes a hanging gourd-shaped nest on the end of a branch and lays about 4 eggs. After the eggs hatch, both birds feed the young until they can fly in about 12 – 14 days. Orioles do not develop their bright plumage until after their second year. These birds have a diverse diet which includes insects, dark colored fruits, and nectar. Baltimore orioles are one of the main predators of forest tent caterpillars and fall webworms, and they may prevent trees from being defoliated by these insects. Orioles are readily attracted to feeders designed for them. The Baltimore oriole migrates to warmer climates in the southern states, Central America and the northern part of South America. Baltimore orioles are often attracted to coffee plantations in their wintering habitat and seem to prefer nectar during this time. Baltimore oriole numbers declined
in the 1960’s but they seemed to rebound somewhat following the 1980’s. At present Baltimore oriole populations are considered to be stable. Certain pesticides and habitat destruction appear to be a major source or mortality of orioles in their wintering grounds while predation by hawks, owls, grackles, and squirrels contributes to oriole mortality in their northern homes.
Article by FCFCDB
Nature Notes for 8/19/2012