Many friends have told me this spring of seeing a neon orange bird flying from tree to tree in their yards: a Baltimore Oriole on the wing. Many also have reported Orioles at their feeders. My mother-in-law, who puts out orange halves every spring to entice Orioles to her backyard, has watched as many as eight at one time feasting both on the oranges and grape jelly.
The Baltimore Oriole is one of our most brilliant summer residents, a gift from the tropics, where it winters, to northern latitudes where it migrates to raise a family and brighten the soundscape with its liquid notes. The male is the one with brilliant orange plumage; the female sports feathers that are more yellow. Orioles favor mature trees – cottonwoods, elms, maples – for their nests.
And what a miracle of avian architecture is the nest. It is a hanging pouch, woven of fine plant fibers, horsehair, and other long pliable materials. I have seen an Oriole’s nest in a city park that sported the green plastic “grass” used to line commercial Easter egg baskets. But a country Oriole’s nest almost always features horsehair as a major component. In early May, female Orioles can be spotted hard at work, stripping the outer fibers from dried milkweed stalks, in the same way basket-makers collect their osiers for weaving. The Oriole’s only tool is its long, sharp beak, typical of birds in the blackbird family, and it uses it to fashion a soft woven sack that cradles and rocks the eggs and nestlings, often at the end of a high, drooping branch.
The Baltimore Oriole derives its name from the first Baron Baltimore, George Calvert, whose livery was black and yellow. Oriole comes from the Medieval Latin word oriolus which means “golden bird.”
The Baltimore Oriole is not the only member of the Oriole family that makes its summer home in and around Barrington. Its cousin, the Orchard Oriole – not as brilliantly colored but no less interesting for its nest architecture and remarkable song – also raises broods in local natural areas. But that’s a subject for another Birds of Barrington profile.
If you’d like a closer look at the Birds of Barrington, Wendy Paulson leads an ongoing schedule of Barrington Area Spring Bird Walks & Hikes, Cosponsored by Audubon Chicago Region and Citizens for Conservation. The walks are free and open to the public but RSVP’s are required and waterproof boots and binoculars are strongly recommended. Here are two upcoming hikes:
June 16, 7:00 a.m.
Galloping Hill *(as above) (change from June 13)
June 15, 5:30 p.m
Longmeadow* (north side of Longmeadow Dr. off Bateman Rd)
*indicates a more strenuous hike
Please RSVP to: Rebeccah Sanders (847) 328-1250 ext. 12 or firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know how best to contact you should that be necessary. Before you head out, please be sure to check the Citizens for Conservation website for any last minute changes or cancellations.
About the Author
Wendy Paulson has lived in Barrington Hills since 1975, and has led bird walks in the area for many years. She re-established the Nature Lady program in District 220 and St. Anne’s in the late 70s, under the auspices of The Garden Club and Little Garden Club of Barrington.
Wendy developed the education program for Citizens for Conservation, initiated and edited its newsletter, and has been an active volunteer with CFC for over 30 years.
During interludes in New York City and Washington, DC, she taught classes about birds in the public schools and is helping to develop a similar program in Chicago public schools with Openlands.
Wendy is chairman of The Bobolink Foundation, serves on the board or advisory committee of multiple conservation and bird-related organizations, both domestic and international, and is former chairman of IL and NY chapters of The Nature Conservancy.
She and her husband Hank have two grown children and are avid hikers, cyclists, and kayakers.
For more information about a cause close to Wendy’s heart here in Barrington, visit CitizensForConservation.org.
Wendy is also a regular contributor at 365Barrington.com sharing profiles of birds found in the Barrington area. CLICK HERE to read all of Wendy’s posts published in our Birds of Barrington series and watch for her next contribution which will be published early next month.
Do you have a question about birds you’ve seen in Barrington? Just enter you question in the comments box for this post and we’ll ask Wendy!