Pearman: Baltimore Orioles are great backyard sports

I enjoyed a recent bucket-list trip to Point Pelee National Park, Ont., where I had the good fortune to witness the iconic warbler migration.

Point Pele, a spit of land that juts out into Lake Erie, is the most southern tip of Canada. Most famously, it is where hungry and tired migrating birds, especially warblers, drop down to rest and eat after their long and arduous journey across this massive body of water.

Bird watchers by the thousands gather each year to witness this remarkable event. I will write a future column about some of the 29 warbler species that I was able to see and photograph.

One of the unexpected highlights of the trip was to encounter Baltimore Orioles at the many feeding stations set up at Rondeau Park, a nearby provincial park. It was a delight to watch and photograph them dine at the various feeders.

Baltimore Orioles are found across most of Alberta and are undoubtedly one of our most colourful and vocal backyard birds.

Their bright orange and black coloration makes them easy to identify, and the male’s loud and boisterous “peter peter peter” song is commonly heard from the treetops in both rural and urban neighbourhoods.

Baltimore Orioles dine on insects, nectar and fruit. Fortunately, they can also be attracted to supplemental food at backyard bird feeders.

Judging by the number of reports we are receiving at Ellis Bird Farm, it appears that record numbers of them are availing themselves of supplemental handouts this year.

Sugar water, dispensed from either special oriole feeders or from hummingbird feeders that are large enough for them to perch on, is one of their favourite feeder fares. But they will also enthusiastically devour grape jelly, which can be served from an open feeder or via a specialized feeder that holds an entire upturned jar.

They also relish orange halves. While I have never seen Baltimore Orioles in Alberta dine on peanuts, they were enthusiastically eating them at the Point Pelee feeders. I’d appreciate hearing from any readers who have seen them dine on peanuts.

Good luck with attracting these beautiful birds to your yard this season. Feel free to contact us if you have any interesting oriole stories to share, or if you see them dining on something other than the items listed above.

Myrna Pearman is the biologist and site services manager at Ellis Bird Farm. She can be reached at mpearman@ellisbirdfarm.ca.

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