Bullock’s Oriole, a medium sized songbird of striking appearance comprised of brilliant orange and yellow color contrasting with black and white. Being sexually dimorphic, the female and male of the species look different from one another. The female exhibits a yellowish-orange head and tail with a grayish back, white belly, and white wing bars while the adult male exhibits a stunning flame-orange color with a black back and large white wing patch. Identifying markers of the male are the black eye line, black patch on the throat and partial black head cap. Juvenile males start out looking like females. As they mature, you’ll start to see their black beard and cap coming in and their orange color will develop over time.
These feathered friends winter in the tropics of Southern Mexico and Central America until the urge to breed spurs them to head our way, toward North America. We begin seeing these orange beauties decorate our trees in Eagle Mountain around April and May through about August. Here, they will nest and raise their brood while delighting birders with their gorgeous appearance, beautiful song, and amusing behavior through the Spring and part of Summer.
Female orioles utilize their weaving skills to construct a hanging-pouch nest made of grasses, leaves, shreds of wild flax or bark and lined with fine grasses, plant down and animal hair. The male may assist. A clutch of 2-6 eggs (typically 4-5) will be solely incubated by the female for about a dozen days and then they hatch. Both parents work together to feed their hungry bunch with protein rich insects until they are old enough to partake in the delicious treats we birders tempt them with in our feeders. The nestlings will leave the nest about two weeks after hatching and the family can be a playful and fun group to watch. Often hanging upside down and play-fighting, tipping hummingbird feeders and squawking at one another.
Speaking of treats, Bullock’s Orioles can be tempted to visit feeders with orange slices, grape jelly, mealworms, and nectar. Spoiled songbirds! Their main diet consists of insects, fruits, and nectar. Through their natural feeding habits, they play a couple of important roles in our ecosystem, pest control and pollinators. They will often eat pest insects such as fall webworms, tent caterpillars, gypsy moths and grasshoppers. While in their tropical winter habitat they feed on nectar enabling them to act as pollinators for various flowering tree species.
As they ornament our trees with their vibrant color, they too titillate our ears with various songs and calls. Allaboutbirds.org gives a good general description of their sound:
Bullock’s Oriole songs are about 3 seconds long, composed of rich whistled notes interspersed with rattles, often introduced by gruff scratchy notes. The timbre is reminiscent of a child’s squeaky-toy. The male’s and female’s songs are similar in rhythm, pitch, and quality, but the female’s final notes are harsher. Females may sing repeatedly from the ground; males usually sing only in trees, often from an inconspicuous perch.
Both sexes utter a harsh, chattering rattle—sometimes in flight—to signal alarm or maintain contact, or when mobbing or scolding. They also give a sharp one-note call.” (Allaboutbirds.com)
Recordings of Bullock’s Oriole songs and calls can be heard on their site.
Bullock’s Orioles are seasonal gems that grace our land and bring us joy in nature. I sure do love spending hours watching these fun feathered friends and I’d like to see them for years to come. I invite us all to join in doing what we can to help minimize our negative impact on these fellow seasonal citizens:
- As with all birds that act as natural pest control, Bullock’s Orioles appear to be sensitive to pesticides, with birds succumbing directly to the poison and from the loss of their insect food sources. We can embrace birds as natural pest control; we can avoid pesticide use as much as possible and search for safe means of pest control.
- Migrating at night, our Oriole friends are known to be victims of collisions with buildings and communication towers. We can advocate for blue and green lighting as it is known to attract fewer migrating birds than white, red, and yellow lighting.
- Climate change and development impact us all. One way to support migrating citizens is to support wildlife corridors. Make your support known for wildlife corridors, open space preservation and natural restoration to support our wild citizens and the health and enjoyment we receive from sharing time and space with them.
Keep your eyes and ears open this April for the beautiful Bullock’s Oriole.