Friday, April 29, 2022

Fruit Basket Upset


male Baltimore oriole on hummingbird feeder

Nearly a week ago, in the early light of dawn, something looked out of place at the hummingbird feeder out our back window. A male Baltimore Oriole, dressed in brilliant orange and black, was perched there trying to sip a liquid breakfast. 


male Baltimore oriole
Male Baltimore Oriole


female Baltimore oriole
Female Baltimore Oriole


These birds sometimes migrate through our area, and although we'd heard reports of them here in the past few years, it has been four years since we've seen any in our yard. Some years, they spend a night or two and are gone, but that year they came in a large flock and stayed for a fortnight. Their antics became a typical conversation starter. Instead of "Get your turkey?" the standard greeting in town was "Are you feeding the orioles?" 


Baltimore oriole on orange

Attached to our deck, near the bird feeder, is a bare cedar tree, and the limbs make good perches for birds. They also provide an excellent place to skewer oranges, so I cut some in half and decorated the tree with the juicy fruit. It didn't take the orioles long to notice. 


Baltimore oriole in hickory tree
Baltimore oriole on orange

Baltimore oriole


They would fly down from their perch high in the hickory tree, land near an orange, and dig in, scrounging out every morsel and picking the oranges clean, like a lion cleaning the bones of its prey. They are endlessly entertaining, and for the most part, the oranges have kept them off the hummingbird feeders.


red-bellied woodpecker on orange

Squirrels and titmice have checked out the oranges, too, and lately, the woodpeckers have been gathering the orange pulp with their long tongues. Unfortunately, as much as we like woodpeckers, they can sometimes make a mess at the hummingbird feeders and also deprive the tiny birds of their nectar. So here's a thought; if we could get the woodpeckers trained to oranges, maybe they'd stay off the hummingbird feeders.

For a while last evening, the hummingbirds were on their feeders, the orioles were on the oranges, and the woodpeckers were eating sunflower seeds and bugs. Everything was as it should be. Then a hummingbird started drinking from the orange. What's next? We can only wonder.