June: Baltimore Oriole
Major league sports teams of all types boast a litany of animal mascots that make cheering for a team much more tangible. Teams like the Seattle Seahawks, the Memphis Grizzlies, the St. Louis Cardinals, or (hopefully you didn’t think I’d forget) the Philadelphia Eagles, always capture the mystique around their chosen member of the animal kingdom. Just south of us, the Baltimore Orioles are no different. But while Baltimore’s baseball fans rush to Camden Yards this time of year for a chance to see their home team win, bird watchers flock to the forest for a chance to spot a winged beauty that makes its way up north this time of year.
The Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula) is June’s bird of the month, and with it comes a fantastic opportunity to see this bird in your own neighborhood. Just like it’s stitched on the baseball uniform, the Baltimore oriole is a bright gem that floats about the forest canopy. You don’t have to go far to find one either. Local parks and backyard spaces are perfect environment for these birds as they spend much of the spring and summer breeding in a large swath of the northeastern and central United States. While that territory has diminished over the years, the population of Baltimore orioles still remains strong.
When it comes to looks, male Baltimore orioles are known for their blazing orange underbelly and contrasting black hoods and backs. Striped on the wing with white highlights as well, the overall presentation of colors and patterns makes for a gorgeous aviator. Females are also striking, but less orange and more yellow, without the black hood.
Listen for the rich whistle of the oriole, which can be heard from high in the treetops where they search for insects – or be aware of their rapid-fire chatter, which can lead you to a nesting site for a female. And speaking of nesting, these birds are quite the architects. Oftentimes placed on the end of a branch in a tall, deciduous tree, oriole nests are woven pouches carefully crafted with plant fibers, strips of bark, vines, grass, hair or Spanish moss. Tightly fitted around the branch, this is where the female will raise her young and where the males sing as a form of defense.
Seeking out a Baltimore oriole can be a fun summer outing, but there is another way of attracting them right to you. These birds love fruit – and the riper the better. Hang sliced oranges from trees, fill special oriole feeders with sugar water, or even place small bowl of jelly to lure these sweet tooths right to your back deck! If you have luck with those methods, feel free to take it a step further. Planting fruit trees and nectar-bearing flowers, such as raspberries, crab apples, and trumpet vines, will keep Baltimore orioles visiting year-round.
In summer seasons to come, other areas of the country also may have the opportunity to see the Baltimore oriole as its habitat is restored to its original size. The Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, one of America’s most innovative ways of protecting habitat for more than 350 neotropical bird species, has just recently been in the news as a target of increased funding by the Biden administration. With bolstered research, monitoring, and education, the Baltimore oriole and its counterparts have a great chance of cultivating healthier populations in the future.
For more information about the Baltimore Oriole, visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website. And for advice on what types of feeders may attract this warbler or other birds you enjoy, visit their Project FeederWatch for community-based tips, resources, and photographs.