Baltimore Orioles, named not after the city of Baltimore, Maryland, but rather after Lord Baltimore, whose sixteenth century coat of arms used the colours orange and black, is a winter resident of South America who migrates to the United States and Canada for the breeding season. These delightful wild birds make excellent part-time residents of your back yard, for their song and their habit of eating nuisance insects, which will cut down on your gardening work!
The Baltimore Oriole, because it can successfully interbreed with Bullock’s Oriole, was at one time considered to be the same species, and was temporarily called the Northern Oriole. However, subsequent analysis of both species’ DNA proved that they were not as closely related as had been thought, and therefore the offspring of Baltimore Orioles and Bullock’s Orioles are fertile hybrids.
Male Baltimore Orioles arrive at their breeding grounds in late April or early May, and quickly stake out their territories before the arrival of the female Baltimore Orioles, a few days later. The male Baltimore Orioles will sing almost continuously until all males have found mates. Once mate selection is complete, the females begin building nests, which are basket-shaped (complete with handles) and are suspended as close as six feet from the ground, but have been observed as high as ninety feet from the ground. The female will lay from three to seven eggs, and the young will emerge from the nest about two weeks after hatching.
Baltimore Orioles eat primarily nuisance insects, including caterpillars and flying insects, especially while feeding their young, but they are also quite partial to fruit and berries. Planting plenty of deciduous trees will provide them with suitable nesting places, and setting out fruit, especially orange halves, grape or apple jelly, or orange marmalade, will help them fatten up for their winter migration. In addition, plants that bear berries, such as serviceberries or brambles will attract them to your yard, as will a source of running water. And Baltimore Orioles are very fond of hummingbird nectar, but rather than feeding them from your hummingbird feeder, give them a feeder that is especially designed for Baltimore Orioles, with orange rather than red colours, and sturdier perches for them to use. Baltimore Orioles often return to the same nesting sites year after year, although they do not reuse their nests. So by making your back yard more hospitable to Baltimore Orioles, you will be able to enjoy these beautiful wild birds for years to come.