Foam Lake Birding No. 85

No. 85
Last week I implied that I would write the last article in a series about attracting birds to one's back yard. However, the weather, bad as it was, made me change my mind. Rather, I will segue from last week's article into this week's by writing about orioles instead. The orioles seem to be late in arriving so feeding them now might be timely.
There are eight species of orioles in North America, five of which are common to the USA and three to Canada. The common one in Saskatchewan is the Baltimore Oriole which is about halfway between a sparrow and robin in size. This striking orange bird with black head, back, tail and wings is named after one of North America's first British colonizers, Lord Baltimore, whose titular colours were orange and black.
(His first settlement, Ferryland, (in present day Newfoundland) failed because of British wars with the French and Dutch which resulted in raids on the colony. Because of the uncertainty and fear of further raids, Lord Baltimore then resettled farther south in more stable British territory at what is now the present day city of Baltimore, USA. The settlement in Newfoundland is presently being excavated and preserved as part of Canada's heritage. Guided tours are provided and a look is well worth it.)
The common oriole of the Rocky Mountain region is the Bullock's Oriole, a close relative of the Baltimore Oriole. Both are very similar with the major difference being that the Bullock's black head has an orange face with a black line through the eye, while the Baltimore's head is all black. The two orioles also have slightly different vocalizations. For those of you who have older bird books, take note that these two orioles were previously lumped into one species, the Northern Oriole. Interestingly, these birds had previously been split, then combined, and then recently split into two species again. Do not be surprised if the two are recombined.
The third oriole, the Orchard Oriole, is like a slender version of the Baltimore except that the orange is replaced by a brick red/chestnut colour. The reddish colour does not stand out and in poor light the bird looks all dark much like a blackbird. The Orchard oriole is very common in southern Ontario and adjacent areas. Like all orioles, the females are much duller version of the males.
Orioles are the most colourful members of the blackbird family usually being orange and black although the orange is sometimes replaced by yellow, as in the Scot's Oriole pictured last week. Other than their bright colours, orioles are known for building their pendulous basketlike nests high in mature trees. Some orioles build nests several feet long although the Baltimore's nest is only about six inches deep. As kids we used to get a kick out of hanging out short pieces of coloured yarn for the orioles to use in nest building. We were never disappointed and the nests were colourful to say the least, and easy to find. We would then climb, very carefully, to these high altitude nests to peek inside and look at the white eggs streaked randomly with fine brown lines. Orioles will nest near people but they must have tall mature trees.
This week's pictures show a male Baltimore Oriole in our backyard. Like the lemon yellow Scot's Oriole featured last week, the orange Baltimore Oriole also likes grapefruit and grape jelly. However, there is only about a three week window in the spring in which to attract these birds after which nesting starts and the orioles stay away. I have not seen any orioles this year, yet, but hopefully my grapefruits attract them.