Oriole Oriole
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FINAL Oriole Migration Update: May 20, 1999

Today's Report Includes:

Grand Finale
Oriole migration is not quite finished. This past week brought migrants to northern areas in Canada and the US, but some orioles are still south of their destinations, and some oriole watchers are still waiting patiently.

The first oriole appeared on May 11 at Taft Elementary School in Washingtonville, NY. Betsy Hawes writes, "Wow! Not only did we sight an oriole, but it came right to the classroom window! Perhaps it saw a reflection--we had a robin attacking it for a day or two last week, but whatever the reason it landed on the birdfeeder (which has only sunflower seed--nothing for orioles) and then into the crabapple tree in full bloom outside the window. After watching for a sight of an oriole for over 2 weeks, it was a pretty exciting moment!"

The genus scientific name of Bullock's and Baltimore Oriole is Icteros. This comes from a Greek work "Ikteros," meaning "jaundice." Long ago people believed that the sight of small bright yellow birds cured people of jaundice. This may not be true, but seeing that first oriole of spring certainly cures the winter blahs!

Dr. Aborn's Final Migration Report
Dear Students:

Well, another spring migration is winding down. As I mentioned in my last report, most migrants have finished moving through the southern US, but things are picking up farther north. Take this past week, for example. A cold front moved across the country starting over the weekend. There were not many birds arriving from the tropics, so Texas only reported a few migrants. Birds that had left Texas a couple of days before, when skies were clear and winds were from the south, encountered the heavy rain and northerly winds and were forced to land. Missouri birders had a wonderful time, seeing 10 different species of warblers in large numbers. As the front moved east, the same pattern occured. Mississippi only reported 1 Ovenbird, while folks in Alabama did not see any migrants. Illinois, on the other hand, reported a good fallout, including Canada Warblers, Connecticut Warblers, and Black-throated-blue Warblers. Here in Florida, the front arrived yesterday, bringing heavy rain, and even hail! Unfortunately, all I saw were a couple of redstarts. Again, most of the birds had already moved north a few days before, and that's where the front forced them to land. Maryland and New Jersey reported large numbers of all the thrushes, and also large numbers of orioles!

For those of you in the northern US, keep your binoculars handy. While fronts tend to be less frequent and weaker as summer nears, birds are still making their way north, so there are still lots to see. In the south, we can enjoy the breeding birds that are around and look forward to fall migration in a few months. I hope you have enjoyed learning about migration and have a
better appreciation for what an amazing feat it is. If you have any questions, just let me know. Have a good summer, and good birding!


Enormous Thanks
Journey North's oriole migration updates would not have been possible without the time and expertise of David Aborn, who provided us with our weather/migration reports and served as our Oriole Expert. Thank you, Dr. Aborn!!

Summer Observations
This is our FINAL oriole migration update this spring. As orioles settle into their nesting routines, many students will be settling into summer vacation routines. Interested students might want to follow around your neighborhood orioles to learn more about them.

Listen to the Oriole's Song
Wait for download; 58 K file.
Recording Courtesy of
Lang Elliott

Listen to the Oriole's Call Note
Wait for download; 97 K file.
Recording Courtesy of
Lang Elliott

To find oriole nests, listen and follow their movements. Orioles prefer nesting in large shade trees. Their nests may be in very high branches, but are usually on the outer twigs, so it's sometimes possible to watch them. It takes a LOT of patience! See if you can figure out how they weave their nest. Think about the predators oriole babies are safe from in a swinging nest on the outer twigs of a tree.

Here is a checklist of things you might look for:

Some Oriole Events to Record




first male oriole seen


isotherm when first male oriole seen


first wave of orioles seen (3 or more together in trees or at feeders)


isotherm when first wave of orioles seen


first trees leafing out


first orioles visiting orange, nectar, or grape jelly feeders


first oriole heard singing (Oriole songs vary by area, and after you learn your resident oriole songs, you can distinguish local orioles from migrant visitors.)


first female oriole seen--do females migrate later than males?


orioles seen chasing each other--record whether these chases involve two females, two males, or one of each.


orioles courting (As with many blackbirds, male oriole faces female and stretches upward, then bows down with wings partly open and tail spread, showing off his colors.)


orioles carrying nesting materials (Provide pet fur or 6" lengths of binder twine, dully-colored string, or natural-fiber yarns in a clean suet feeder or wedged in the crotch of a tree where you can see orioles take the materials.)


nest building begins (Watch where orioles carry nest materials, or search for signs of nests or nest-building on the high outer branches of elms, maples, willows, apple trees, and sometimes other trees.)


incubating underway (You won't actually see the female sitting in the nest, but if you find a nest and keep it in your sight, you may be lucky enough to see the female enter or leave. Like most songbirds, oriole females spend about 50 minutes of every hour warming the eggs.)


young hatch (usually about 12-14 days after last egg laid. Watch for adults flying toward the nest with beakfuls of insects or away from the nest with their babies' fecal sacs.)


first young fledge (about 12-14 days after eggs hatch the young leave the nest, or "fledge." These babies aren't as clumsy as newly-fledged robins or cardinals. Watch for orioles that look like females with short tails.)


parent and young appear together at feeders


familes leave nesting territory (After nesting, orioles become very secretive and hard to find. Many birds migrate back to the tropics in July and August.)

By Land or by Sea: Discussion of Challenge Question #5:
David Aborn asked, "Why do you think birds fly over the Gulf of Mexico instead of
going around it?"

Dr. Aborn explains, "The answer is that it is shorter, therefore birds can reach their breeding grounds quickly and get the best territory. It can take migrants 18-24 hours to cross the Gulf, and since there is no place for them to land, they must cross it non-stop. Many of them don't make it. Despite the danger, it offers the best chance for them to reproduce."

Why the Rush? Discussion of Challenge Question #6
"Why do orioles push northward during a single week in late April/early May, when hummingbirds move northward so gradually, for 8-10 weeks from March to mid-May?"

Hummingbirds can eat a wide variety of tiny flying insects swarming about the tips of newly budding branches, and the sap from sapsucker borings. So even if the weather is unpredictable, they can count on plenty of food when they first arrive. Orioles require much larger insects, such as caterpillars, which don't hatch until buds emerge. So orioles must wait until leaf-out. By then, their hormones are urging them forward so they can set up their territories and start nesting, so they move north FAST!!!!!

Have a Great Summer!
We at Journey North have had a lot of fun learning about YOUR orioles this spring! Thank you so much for sharing your observations and questions with us. This is the FINAL Oriole Migration Update--We hope you learned a lot and enjoyed participating. Have a great summer. We hope to see you in the fall, in time for the orioles to Journey South!

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