Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Surprise at the feeder and questions

Because it's still mostly dark when I get up and dark again when I get in from work I have to do my feeder-watching in stolen moments when I should be paying attention to other things. This oriole very nearly made me late for work this morning! I've never drawn an oriole to the feeders, most certainly not in January! This bird should be down Mary's way in North Carolina. It was still darkish when I took the photos and that top one is through the window screen as well, but I guess it must be a Northern Oriole, because Orchards should be real far south in Florida now. If I saw this bird in the spring I would call it an Orchard, though. But I've never been good at identifying birds in their in-between plumages. Maybe someone can help? Would one of you bander folks that check in here be able to help me out with some ID tips?
It came in with a small group of starlings and poked around in one of the sunflower feeders before finding the suet log. I took a few minutes to cut open an orange left over from Christmas and put that out in a basket feeder, although by that point the flock had moved on. I've seen photos of orioles feeding at orange halves and sugar-water feeders, but I've never been able to lure them down from the locust tree blossoms in spring or the mulberries in late summer. That I should get one now I guess is proof that the bird is having a hard time finding food, right? Something else for me to worry over. ;-)

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In case you're paying attention to that *What I'm Reading* thingy over in the sidebar - I've finally updated it. I can't really call what I've been doing lately *reading* - it's more like perusing 5 different books at the same time - but I'd left that book about the Pine Barrens up for months after I finished reading it actively because quite a few folks have clicked on it. I've replaced it with another of Joanna Burger's books that I *read* years ago, but now I'm just *perusing* for ideas and some inspiration on where to spend my free time. It's a good book and one that I think most anyone that lives near the shore would enjoy.

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The other night I read about the Brant that winter in Barnegat Bay here in NJ (approx. 50,000 according to Burger) and how they prefer to feed on eelgrass, but if that becomes unavailable due to ice, they'll switch to sea lettuce that grows along the margins of the marsh. If the bay freezes and the ground is snow-covered, often they are caught by surprise and many will starve. But... why not just fly farther south? Why is the oriole I saw this morning hanging around here where the weather is suddenly cold and snowy? Why not just go? Anybody know?

15 comments:

Mary said...

I've seen Orioles here in the warm spring and summer but not at this time of year! If I weren't so tired, I'd help, Laura. Mon@rch will know. But that's a great looking bird. I'll check back in tomorrow after I get 7 hours of snooze. You are reading? I haven't read in weeks and I miss it. I look at the four books in progress on the nightstand and turn off the light.

Susan Gets Native said...

The in-between birds are tough for me, too. Is the Northern the same as the Baltimore?
I have yet to have any type of oriole here. I waste alot of oranges and grape jelly. I'm still hoping.
I am reading two books simultaneously. The History of Love by Nicole Kraus and Between, Georgia by Joshlin whats-her-name.
It's slow going when little ones are around.

John said...

Baltimore and Bullock's Orioles were lumped together as Northern Oriole for a while, but have since been split again.

This bird definitely looks like a Baltimore Oriole to me. Female Baltimore Orioles have more contrasts in their plumage, from the brownish head to bright orange breast to pale belly to bright orange undertail coverts. Orchard has more of a continuous yellow coloration from head to vent, and a greenish rather than brownish head. I would guess this is a first winter bird, but I don't know the plumage sequences well enough to be sure.

Great bird!

mon@rch said...

I have to agree with everyone! This looks like a Baltimore Oriole and although the lighting isn't the best, the Baltimore is more orange like this bird where the Orchard Oriole should have more of a red coloring in it!!! And if this is a female, the head pattern would be a 100% sure Baltimore where the Orchard's don't have any black in the head (according to Sibley's guide)!

Time to pull out the cookies!

Jayne said...

Wow...how magnificent! I've never seen an oriole here.

robin andrea said...

I can't help with the ID, or answer any of your questions, but I do appreciate seeing that very beautiful bird at your feeder. Why are they so far north this time of the year? That worries me.

Lynne said...

Beautiful oriole! We get them at the jelly feeders in spring and early summer. Once the young have fledged they sem to disappear.

No one has answered the question yet, why do some birds stay behind, and when conditions are tough, whay don't they leave for south? I NEED TO KNOW!!

Patrick Belardo said...

My thought is that the bird has been subsisting on insects that have been around thanks to the mild temperatures we've had. Now that the cold and snow have started to arrive, the availability of food is dwindling and it's finding your feeder to be a nice place to get some food. Maybe he's slowly moving south now and has found your feeder along the way. Maybe he's realized it's too late in the season to think about migrating.

Jenn said...

My thought too is that this is a first year bird, and got left behind when the others went south.

They suggest putting out mealworms for bluebirds in the spring. Maybe this guy would appreciate some? You can get them at most pet stores, they are reptile food.

But if you start feeding, it'll be a winter-long commitment. He's gonna be lucky if it makes it through the cold weather. You can fight Nature, but don't let it get you down if Nature wins.

Laurie said...

Even though it was darkish, the pictures are awesome. What a treat that must have been. The only birds staying around here are birds of prey and Canadian Geese. Lucky you!

lauraO said...

First impression is a Baltimore, but I don't have the banding manual handy and I'm just too darn lazy to go over to the Observatory building right now and get it - but I'll check the details tomorrow. Probably won't help much unless it's in the hand.

Liza Lee Miller said...

Lovely bird and what a mystery. I never get the super colorful birds here. I enjoy seeing them at other people's feeders though!

maggie said...

I love to sit and watch the birds here usually a cardinal family adopts us in the summer. Alas our squirrels are way too aggressive even with a squirrel guard they manage to empty it in one day. They jump off a tree limb and knock the goodies to the ground. Love the pics. Send that beautiful bird thisa way.

pablo said...

I usually have a half dozen books in some state of digestion all about the house. (I even have one in my desk drawer at the office, but don't tell anyone!)

Endment said...

I would have been late for work!!
What a wonder to find an oriole here in winter.