Oriole Oriole
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Answers From the Oriole Expert

Special thanks to Dr. David Aborn for providing his time and expertise in responding to your questions.

Questions From:
North Albany Elementary, OR


Q. When the time comes to migrate and an oriole has eggs that haven't hatched yet, what do the orioles do? Do they leave their eggs or do they stay with them and not migrate that year?

A. Good question! The instinct to migrate is very strong in most birds. If fall has arrived and a bird, such as an oriole, is still sitting on eggs, the birds will abandon the nest. In fall and winter, there would not be enough food and temperatures would be too cold for the young to survive, and it would also be tough for the parents. Fortunately, most birds lay their last clutch of eggs in time to raise their young before it comes time to migrate.

Q. How long does it take the average oriole to get prepared to migrate?

A. It takes several weeks for an oriole or other songbird migrant to prepare for migration. The two main activities a bird must do to prepare for migration are 1)molt (shed) its worn feathers and grow new ones and 2)do lots of feeding so they can fatten (fat is the main source of energy during migration). Since birds fly better with fresh feathers, they molt their feathers right after breeding in the summer and early fall, and again in late winter and early spring. Migration requires a lot of energy to fly the long distances that birds travel. In the 2 or 3 weeks before spring and fall migration, many migrants do a lot of eating, and I mean A LOT of eating! Many songbirds almost double their body weight prior to migration! They use up some of that fat as they fly, so they stop each morning (remember that songbirds migrate at night) and feed some more to replenish the fat they lost the night before.

Q.How long does it take the average oriole to migrate?

A. Well, you just learned that it takes 2 or 3 weeks for an oriole to prepare itself for migration. You also know that they stop along the way. If they did not use up a lot of their fat the night before, they may only stop for a day. If they encountered head winds or bad weather, they will use up more fat and may stopover for several days. On average, an oriole probably travels about 150 miles each night, flying at about 20 miles per hour. If the weather is good, and they do not stop for long, it would take an oriole about 2-3 weeks to complete its migration, depending on where it started from in the fall, or where it is going in the spring.

Questions From:
Logan Township Elementary School, NJ


Q. Can you teach an Oriole to talk?

A. Interesting question. I'm afraid you can not teach an oriole to talk. Orioles are related to blackbirds, and blackbirds are not very good talkers. Another bird you may be familiar with, the starling, is related to mynah birds, and they can be taught to talk and imitate sounds easily. You wouldn't want to teach an oriole to talk anyway, their beautiful song is much nicer to listen to!

Dr. David Aborn
Archbold Biological Station
Lake Placid, FL

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