Baltimore Oriole – A Royal Progress

The deep, burning orange and black of a Baltimore Oriole, accented with bright white wing bars, eclipsed all the other birds in a small wave of migrants moving through a stand of water oaks this morning. The Oriole’s size, demeanor and brilliant colors looked regal. It stood out clearly near the top of the tree, solid black head held high and thin, pointed bill tilted slightly up. It moved at a stately pace through the branches, its breast and body as orange and brilliant as the sun.

Meanwhile, in the same water oaks and nearby privet, kudzu and other shrubs and vines, a diminutive, neat gray Eastern Wood-Pewee, two silvery, long-tailed Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, a Red-eyed Vireo, White-eyed Vireo, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Northern Parula, and several Carolina Chickadees and Carolina Wrens all were moving through the same patch of trees. All fell into the background for me – like colorful, fluttering, chattering attendants – because I so seldom see a Baltimore Oriole here. Whenever one does move through, in spring or fall migration, it feels like a special occasion.

It moved quietly and made its stately, unhurried way through the upper branches of the oaks, seeming to search intently for food – which might have been insects or flowers or fruits on a vine. A couple of times it flew out from a treetop to hawk an insect from the air. After a few minutes, it had moved further and further away, and finally disappeared into more trees.

Though my image of the Baltimore Oriole as royalty was purely subjective, of course, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds website includes this interesting note:

Unlike robins and many other fruit-eating birds, Baltimore Orioles seem to prefer only ripe, dark-colored fruit. Orioles seek out the darkest mulberries, the reddest cherries, and the deepest-purple grapes, and will ignore green grapes and yellow cherries even if they are ripe. 

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