Imagine a cold, grey spring morning in the woods: the promised sun has disappeared behind a fog of clouds, the damp chilling breeze is off the lake, a million gnats and midges cling onto anything warm including your hair and face. The shrubs and brush are painted with tones of dust grey and mud brown and only a few leaves are tentatively unfurling on the honeysuckle bushes. Then suddenly you see a bird in brilliant navel orange and shiny-new-car black plumage. It’s surprising how simply seeing the first Oriole of spring can turn a bleak day into a hope-filled one!
What Can an Oriole Find to Eat in Early Spring?
When the Orioles first arrived back near my parents’ home, they used to be seen attacking the blossoms on the fruit tree next door. We were never entirely clear whether the birds were after the insects and bees visiting the blossoms, or whether they were after the nectar in the flowers themselves. Either way, the vivid orange and black birds among the pink and white petals made a pretty and interesting spectacle.
Many people do put out orange halves and even special nectar feeders for returning Baltimore Orioles. The birds do enjoy visiting them and having a sweet boost.
The male Baltimore Oriole I was watching on this last day of April, though, was definitely looking for insects. He hopped and flew from shrub to bush and dove into each cluster of dead leaves dangling there.
I tried to think of what he might find: cocoons, resting insects, early moths, even some types of bees or wasps. Whatever he was after, he did find some, as several times he paused to gulp something down.
While I was watching the Oriole work, for a brief time, I also got to watch a Brown Thrasher as well. I had thought that the Thrashers had already moved through and out of the park, so it was a pleasant bonus.
I hope my next bleak spring day turns out to be such a sunny one!
Are the Baltimore Orioles back in your backyard? Does their vivid colouring make your day brighter? Please share your sighting with a comment.