Once the sun begins to fall below the horizon, it seems to get dark pretty quickly. I was leaving the woods one evening, walking through a native wildflower field with trees spotting the landscape here and there, when I caught a glimpse of a bird that had a color pattern I didn't recognize. My flash and "better beamer" was attached so I waited for the bird to get into an unobstructed view and took a shot. I use fill-flash a lot for bird photography. It fills in the shadows and dark side of a sun-lit bird nicely. When done right, you can't tell that a flash was fired. The photo to the right isn't the desired outcome of fill-flash but I'm using it here to illustrate the conception of this photo blog. I elected the help of a friend, Dean Williams, to identify the bird. He said, and was right, "It is a juvenile, male, Orchard Oriole". Juveniles and female Orchard Orioles basically look alike except when the juvenile is a male. The giveaway is the black throat. I've never photographed Orchard Orioles so I spent about six hours during the next couple weeks, photographing and learning about them.
The Orchard Oriole is smaller and doesn't have the bright orange color of the only other oriole found in Pennsylvania, the Baltimore Oriole. Instead, the male has a deep, chestnut colored underside. The female, on the other hand, has yellow to olive colors with grayish wings.
The birds in many of the following images have purplish-red marks on their beaks due to photographing them while they were feeding on berries and insects. Orchard OrioleMale
The adult female and juvenile female Orchard Oriole look alike so I'll just refer to them as females in this post. Below is a female waiting to be fed (more on that coming up!).
Orchard Orioles breeds from Manitoba, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ontario, New York, and central New England south to southern United States and west to Dakotas, Nebraska, Colorado, and Texas. They spend their winters in the tropics. However, they don't have the same migration timeframe as you would think, they migrate north late in the spring and head southward early, with some returning to their wintering grounds as early as mid-July. There are probably a few exceptions but Orchard Orioles can be found in Pennsylvania from about mid-May to mid-July. By the time you are reading this blog, it might be difficult to find them this far north.
I'm going to dedicate the rest of this blog post to the feeding habits that I witnessed over the past couple of weeks. To make a long story short, I didn't see the females feeding for themselves. I found the females flying from tree to tree and chirping along the way as if to announce where they are. Now, I'm not an expert on Orchard Orioles. The females I photographed may be juveniles and this is just what parents do.
The male Orchard Oriole searched for insects.
One would think an Orchard Oriole would be found mostly in orchards. That isn't the case anymore. The use of pesticides and exquisite pruning have forced them to look in other areas for food.
After jumping into the three foot tall weeds and wildflowers, he would come up with an insect.
When the females saw the trophy in his mouth, they competed for his attention with song and wing flittering.
Sometimes there were several females waiting to be fed. He would single one out and feed her.
After doing this several times, he would take a break.
Competition among the females was tough. Although I didn't see any fighting, many females wanted the same meal.
This female watched intently as the male flew back into the weeds.
After they've all been fed, the action subsided. This guy looks weary after a busy morning foraging through the wet grasses for insects.
This group of Orchard Orioles have already left the area where I watched them over the course of two weeks. They may not have began migration but I haven't seen them since I saw a few females on July 17th.
I hope you found this interesting. I never knew a lot about this bird until photographing them. They are in my region of Pennsylvania for such a short period of time so they went unnoticed to me. I'm glad I got to spend a couple weeks watching them.
Thanks for looking,