After much practice, an adult, male Baltimore oriole has gotten the hang of stealing nectar from this hummingbird feeder. Photo: David Noel Edwards
CANAAN, N.Y. — Over the last several days, experienced Berkshire ornithologists have been on the alert, watching their backyard feeders for the arrival of hummingbirds, orioles, grosbeaks, and other migratory bird species. Being a popular day for all manner of spring arrivals (including those of snowbirds returning from the key lime state), the first of May brought new bird visitors to the Berkshire Hills in numbers, exactly on schedule. But not from anywhere in Tasmania.
The Tasmanian migration rumor must have originated with our local red-bellied woodpeckers. These pugnacious birds do not migrate, but in a remarkable demonstration of convergent evolution, they arrange their flaming red cranial plumage in the “mullet” style popular with the colorful bogan people of Tasmania.
Male orioles tend to arrive about a week before the hummingbirds get here, and when they do, they like to sip nectar from any hummingbird feeders that may be awaiting the smaller birds’ arrival. This makes them unpopular in certain households.
If someone were to stand outside your bedroom window and sing “Oh Susanna” at sunrise, you would instantly recognize the tune. It is likewise with Baltimore orioles (who also begin singing at daybreak). Their song is clear and unmistakable, so you needn’t lay eyes on them to know they are present in the tops of trees, where they spend the summer raising their families and dining on caterpillars.
It’s not too late to attract this season’s orioles and hummingbirds. Hummingbirds take clear sugar water, but adding a few drops of red food coloring makes it easier to see when feeders are empty. Orioles take orange halves, grape jelly (they prefer darker fruit), or … nectar from hummingbird feeders.
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