This is a Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula) that came to my feeder earlier today. In Charleston, SC they make their way through starting now and I love seeing them come to my feeders. It is very cool to see such striking colors up close, and I’m glad this guy stuck around to let me get this photo. These birds are long distance migrants. Their summer ranges reach as far north as Canada and there winter ranges are down in South America. A fact I found out about the Baltimore Oriole is that they are not directly named after the city of Baltimore in Maryland. These birds are in fact named because their orange and black plumage is the same colors as the heraldic crest of the Baltimore family in England (which the city of Baltimore, Maryland was named after).
These birds eat insects, fruit, and nectar. During their breeding months they stick mainly to insects because the protein helps the baby birds grow faster. During their migration and in the summer they love their sugary fruit and nectar. This sugar is converted into fat and stored for their long migrations. They have an interesting way in which they feed on these fruits, it is a behavior called “gaping” which they poke their closed bill into the fruit and open it to slice through the fruit, they do this until they can grab a chunk out for themselves. They can be picky about their fruits though, they only eat dark colored, ripe fruit. They will go after the darkest mulberries, the reddest cherries, and the dark-purple grapes leaving the duller ones behind even though they are just as ripe and edible. They are also attracted to the color orange, so the best fruit to put out for them to eat are oranges (which are in my photo). Another food that they like to eat is jelly, which this one was chowing down on for a while.
Their conservation status is Least Concern, but their numbers have been declining within their range. This decline is mainly due to habitat loss. Another big concern for these birds is that they are very susceptible to insecticides, which not only kills off their food source in insects, but also will poison them directly. Since these birds are long distance, international migrants, it is hard know what problems they face in their southern ranges of South America or to do anything about it. This is a common problem we see in many of our bird species that migrate outside our borders to other countries that do not have the same views on conservation as we do in the United States.
These are very wonderful birds that I love to see this time of year. They are just passing through and will be gone soon, but I will be waiting for their return trip in the fall.
More info on the Baltimore Oriole click Here