For the Birds

Arrival of flashy Bullock's oriole is a delight

By Anne Schmauss
Posted 5/20/20

Mid-May is peak migration and we are seeing a flood of colorful birds in Northern New Mexico. The eye-popping Bullock's oriole is showing up at area backyards, some to nest and others stopping before farther migration.

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For the Birds

Arrival of flashy Bullock's oriole is a delight

Posted

Mid-May is peak migration and we are seeing a flood of colorful birds in Northern New Mexico. The eye-popping Bullock's oriole is showing up at area backyards, some to nest and others stopping before farther migration.

This show-stopping bird (particularly the male) is impossible to miss. They are often drawn to a feeder with a fresh orange half, as they like nectar and they also eat grape jelly. Make sure to keep all these foods fresh and attractive.

An oriole will sometimes drink from a hummingbird feeder. But there are oriole feeders that have larger perching areas and drinking ports. The orioles will also pluck a blossom off a flower to eat.

Scott's orioles also nest in the state and are showing up now. The male is lemon-yellow and black. Both Bullock's and Scott's like the same foods at backyard feeders. Their natural foods include insects, fruit and nectar.

The Bullock's oriole nests in higher trees, like cottonwoods, so it's found during the summer in more heavily wooded areas. The Scott's oriole favors more open dry areas and prefers to nest in the shorter trees found in more arid habitat.

Orioles build/weave a socklike pouch as a nest with an entry hole that they hang from a tree branch. The Scott's female builds the nest solo, while the Bullock's nest construction is a joint activity by male and female.

The male western tanagers, with a red head, yellow body and black wings, like to eat the same foods as the oriole. Your chances to attract orioles and tanagers is better now than at any other time of year. Tanagers and sometimes orioles and many other migrants like yellow-rumped warblers also love suet. My favorite way to offer suet is by feeding suet cylinders.

If you're feeding nectar, oranges, suet and your regular quality mix of seed (lots of sunflower, sunflower chips, a little millet, nuts, etc.) you can attract quite a variety of different birds the next couple of weeks. Be sure to offer fresh water in a good, shallow birdbath, too. Once migration winds down, nesting season ramps up and that comes with its own delights for backyard birders.

Interest in bird-feeding and birdwatching has increased during the COVID-19 crisis. Many folks are home and paying attention to what is going on in their backyards. I am pleased that this interest is coinciding with peak spring bird migration. It makes it more exciting for anyone spending more time at home, especially new backyard birders.

Less noise from a noisy world also has allowed us to hear the birds better, and many of you have remarked that it just seems like the birds are louder right now.

Anne Schmauss is the co-owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Santa Fe and she loves to hear your bird stories. She is the author of "For the Birds: A Month-wby-Month Guide to Attracting Birds to Your Backyard" and has been writing the For the Birds column for The New Mexican for more than 11 years.

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