Thursday, November 20, 2014

Orioles Can Brighten up a Winter Feeder

Baltimore orioles can be occasional winter visitors to area feeders. They like a variety of foods; suet dough, sunflower chips, shelled peanut, orange slices, and especially grape jelly are very good at attracting them if they are in the area. And there is potential to attract a rare species of oriole too.

Baltimore orioles occur in a wide variety of plumages based on molt, age, and gender. Below are some frequently encountered plumages.

Male Baltimore Oriole by Jeff Lewis
Male Bullock's Oriole by Jeff Lemons

Identification of adult male orioles is pretty straightforward. the more commonly see Baltimore male has the complete black hood.

The adult male Bullock's oriole is extremely rare here, but this photo was taken near Southpark  two winters ago. Note the orange face and black eyeline and "goatee."

Female Baltimore Oriole by Jeff Lewis

Female Baltimores lack the extensive black of the males. Note the strong stripes on the wings and the orange plumage, especially on the upper breast.

Female Baltimore Oriole by Phil Fowler
In this bird, note again the orange tint to the breast. Also note the long, thin bill in both birds.

Immature Male Baltimore by Jeff Lewis
In this immature male Baltimore oriole, the black hood is just now molting in. This bird is not as orange as some but some orange feathers can be seen coming in on the chest. 

And always be aware of the possibility of a Western tanager visiting your feeder. As in orioles, the adult males are strikingly colored and identification is usually easy. There will be at least a hint of red in the face. This photo was taken in Mecklenburg County a few years ago. 

Adult Male Western Tanager by Wayne Forsythe

The more likely to be seen females and immatures may resemble this duller bird below. Note the greenish yellow plumage and two wing bars, the upper one being yellowish, the lower being whiter. Also notice the bill is shorter and thicker.

Western Tanager by Jeff Lemons.

In this immature male below, note again the yellow upper wing bar, brighter greenish yellow plumage, and a hint of red coming in around the face.

Immature Male Western Tanager by Jeff Lewis