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Mon, May 20

Column: Arrival of Orioles is just around corner

Wow, it is hard to believe it is already April - but what an exciting time of year for bird lovers. Right now is the time to get your hummingbird and oriole feeders up if they are not already out.

My first report of an oriole in the tri-city area was a male Hooded Oriole clear back on March 18. That is a very early sighting. My first report of a Scott's Oriole was on March 30 at the same residence where the Hooded Oriole was observed. I have not heard of any reports of Bullock's Orioles yet.

We are fortunate to live in an area where it is possible to see three different oriole species. In many parts of the East they have only one species - the Baltimore Oriole. In parts of the Midwest, the Orchard Oriole overlaps with the Baltimore Oriole over much of its range.

Male orioles are striking in appearance, with brilliantly colored plumage, ranging from bright orange, jet black and pure white in the Bullock's Oriole, to pitch black and brilliant yellow in the Scott's Oriole.

How do you attract orioles to your yard? Put out a nectar feeder - preferably an oriole feeder. However, orioles are famous for feeding at hummingbird feeders. In fact, they are adept at pulling out the yellow flowers on some brands of hummingbird feeders in order to get their beaks into the feeder to drink the sugar water.

Orioles also are notorious for using their weight to tip hummingbird feeders so that the nectar pools to one side of the feeder making it more accessible. Orioles share a similar diet to hummingbirds - they eat a lot of insects, and they love nectar from flowers, as well as the sugar water solution they find in hummingbird and oriole feeders.

Another interesting fact is that orioles also like citrus and they love grape jelly! Many customers put out a style of feeder that is called a three-in-one oriole feeder, where there is a reservoir for sugar water, a place for grape jelly and a spot for half an orange!

Unlike hummingbirds that are fearless, orioles tend to be more skittish and can easily detect movement or motion by a sliding glass door or by a window. It has been my experience that it is better to place oriole feeders farther away from the house so you don't spook them.

One challenge with oriole feeders is the fact that the openings (ports) in the feeders are larger to accommodate the oriole's larger bill - but this makes the feeders susceptible to bees and wasps. It is not uncommon for hundreds of bees to get into an oriole feeder and drown.

If you develop a bee problem, one suggestion is to rub a light film of either olive or vegetable oil on the surface of the feeder. It doesn't hurt the bees, but it does help to discourage them from landing on the feeder.

I would suggest putting out your oriole feeders right away, so they are in place when the orioles arrive, otherwise, if they show up and the feeder is not out, they will move on, and you will miss your chance to woo them into sticking around for a while.

Bullock's is the most common oriole species in our area, followed by Scott's; and Hooded is the least common. All three species have been known to breed in the area. I hope you can catch a glimpse of orioles this spring. Happy birding!

If you have specific questions or issues related to wild birds which you would like discussed in future articles, you can submit them to Jay's Bird Barn, 1046 Willow Creek Road, Suite 105, Prescott, AZ 86301 or log onto www.JaysBirdBarn.com and click on Ask Eric, which will link you with my e-mail address Eric@JaysBirdBarn.com.

Eric M. Moore is the owner of Jay's Bird Barn and has been an avid birder for more than 40 years.

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