Bullock's Orioles Nest at our Place

By Dave Hanks

Each year, we look forward to the first week in May when our orioles appear. They are eager to get at the sugar-water we have set out for them. Their golden/orange, contrasted against black markings on their head and throat, along with black and white wings, is “breath taking”. The species is sexually dimorphic, with the males being slightly larger than the females and more brightly colored. She has gray/brown under-parts, and her upper-parts are a duller yellow with an olive crown. Immature birds resemble the females.

Bullock’s Orioles are seasonally monogamous, and we have had as many as four pairs take advantage of our trees to nest in our yard. You can’t mistake an oriole nest. It is like a sock that hangs down, suspended from a branch. Three to six eggs are laid, and both sexes cooperate to raise the young. I am always amazed at how tiny the young are when they are out of the nest, and how in a week’s time they have grown into large birds. Both sexes will sing – the males with the sweeter voice and the female’s voice more prolific.

This species is a western bird which migrates here, to nest, from Mexico. Its counterpart (Baltimore Oriole) is the eastern half of a species which is called Northern Oriole. Bullock’s will hybridize with the Baltimore where their ranges meet.

It is interesting to learn that it is one of the few species able to recognize, puncture, and destroy cowbird eggs (a nest parasite) – thereby limiting the spread of this objectionable species.

This bird is named after William Bullock, an amateur English naturalist.

(Adding color to our yard)