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Bird Feature: Tree Swallow

Bird Feature: Tree Swallow

Identifying Tree Swallows:

These small, streamlined songbirds have a short slightly notched tail and long pointed wings. Measuring between 4.7 and 5.9 inches in length with a wingspan ranging from 11.8 to 13.8 inches, these iridescent passerine are known for their aerial displays while foraging insects midair. Adult males have white undersides cloaked with shimmering blue-green feathers on their head and back with blackish wings and tail and a thin black eye mask. Females appearance varies only in the intensity of blue, with their feathers being somewhat duller at times with more brown feathers in their upperparts. 

Tree swallows typically reside in fields, shorelines, wooded swamps, or marshes. They prefer to live near bodies of water that can produce a larger number of the flying insects that are the birds' diet. These birds will often be spotted in open spaces displaying their aerial acrobatic prowess as they chase insect prey in the air and will sometimes converge in larger numbers in an insect swarm. If you have ever been mowing the lawn and seen a group of birds appear continuously swooping down around there is a high probability this was a group of tree swallows gorging on the insects the mower was kicking up!

Attracting Tree Swallows:

The tree swallow's diet consists mainly of aerial insects such as damselflies, mayflies, months, beetles, and flies. Although they may eat some plant foods during inclement weather if prey is scarce, tree swallows are not birds that will be found at a feeder. To attract tree swallows to your yard, avoid spraying pesticides as these will deplete the birds' natural food source. Birders located in the typical breeding range (the northern half of the continental US, almost all of Alaska, and the southern two-thirds of Canada) can have success attracting tree swallows to their yard by erecting nest boxes. More information on selecting a location and mounting a nest box, see our blog.

Above: A pair of tree swallows bringing insects to their young in a Nature's Way Bluebird Box House w/ Viewing Window (Model# CWH4)

Nesting:

These birds are highly social and pairs will often nest close together if nest boxes are numerous. Tree swallows are cavity nesters, meaning they will nest in the natural cavities in dead trees and also nest boxes. The female constructs majority of the nest, taking roughly two weeks to complete the build. Nests are comprised almost entirely of grasses, but may also include pine needles, animal hair, or aquatic plants. Tree swallow nests are distinguishable from the nest of bluebirds who will also use these houses by the tidy lining of the nest cup with feathers. 

Tree swallow eggs are roughly 0.7 inches in length and 0.5 inches in width, are a very pale pink the first few days after being laid, and turn pure white by day 4. A typical clutch size ranges from 4 to 7 eggs depending on the location, time of year, and brood. Eggs will be incubated for 11 to 20 days and the hatchlings will spend another 15 to 25 days before fledging the nest. There may be up to two broods in a nesting season. 

female tree swallow sitting on nest

Leave a comment to share with us your Tree Swallow stories!

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Bird Feature: Allen's Hummingbird

Bird Feature: Allen's Hummingbird

Identifying Allen's Hummingbirds:

Allen's hummingbirds are rust orange and green all over. Adult males have a rust colored tail, eye patch and belly with a deep red-orange throat. Immature males and females have similar coloring with only small spots of iridescent bronze on their throats.

male allens hummingbird female allens hummingbird

Left: male. Right: female.

Similar Species:

Both Allen's hummingbirds and Rufous hummingbirds share many of the same physical characteristics and can be extremely hard to distinguish in the field, even by experienced birders. The only true way to decipher between these species is by subtle differences in the shape of their tail feathers. In the Allen's hummingbirds, all tail feathers are narrower than their Rufous counterpart. The Rufous hummingbird has a subtle but distinct notch at the top of the R2 feather (second from center). 

Where Allen's Hummingbirds Live:

When the earliest signs of spring begin to show, as early as January, Allen's hummingbirds make their appearance in their breeding grounds along the western coast of California and Oregon. Males can be found in open areas of coastal scrub where they can be seen perched conspicuously keeping a close watch on their territory. The females visit these areas to find a mate but will retreat into the forest or thickets to build her nest and raise the young. There are two subspecies of Allen's hummingbirds; one which stays in California year-round and a second which migrates to Mexico during the winter months. These two subspecies are not distinguishable in the field. 

What Hummingbirds Eat:

Allen's hummingbirds feed on nectar from tubular flowers and insects which they catch during flight or may even pull from spider webs or plants. Hummingbirds will also readily consume artificial nectar from hummingbird feeders. Nectar can be made using a ratio of 1 cup white sugar to 4 cups water. The use of dye or food coloring in artificial nectar is not necessary for attracting hummingbirds to a feeder and is not recommended due to the sensitive nature of these tiny birds.

How to Attract Allen's Hummingbirds to Your Feeder:

Placing feeders near flower beds or planters may help attract more
hummingbirds to your feeder. For the best chance of hummingbirds discovering your feeder, it is recommended to have it up and ready before they return from their winter migration. Be sure to research the migratory pattern of hummingbirds in your area to make sure you haven’t put your feeder out too late, since this can cause them to overlook it later in the season. Feeders with built in perches can help these tiny birds conserve energy and feel more comfortable feeding, prolonging feeding times and increasing hummingbird viewing. 

allens hummingbird at hummingbird feeder

Nesting:

Constructed from plant down from willows and plants in the sunflower family and held together using spiderweb strands, female Allen's hummingbirds build their nests anywhere from 2 to 50 feet off the ground. Nests are usually located on a branch near shady streams. Small strands of grass are woven together to form an outer layer which is camouflaged with pieces of lichen and moss. 

A clutch size is typically 2-3 eggs that are roughly 0.3 inches wide and 0.5 inches in length. The tiny eggs are white and weigh less than half a gram. Eggs hatch in 17 to 22 days and will fledge the nest after an additional 22 to 25 days. There can be 1 to 3 broods per year depending on weather and location.

Related Articles:

Are you ready for hummingbird season?

Common hummingbird feeders and solutions

Homemade hummingbird nectar recipe

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Bird Feature: Black-chinned Hummingbird

Bird Feature: Black-chinned Hummingbird

Identifying Black-chinned Hummingbirds:

These quick little birds are a dull metallic green on the back of the head down to the tail. While both male and female have a grey-white underside, only the males have a very distinct black patch on their throat. The shape and size of the patch can vary from bird to bird, with a thin iridescent purple strip at the base, sometimes unnoticeable until catching the light.

male black chinned hummingbird female black chinned hummingbird

Left: male . Right: female. [Photo credits to: Joan Gellatly | Flickr & ©Marky Mutchler | Macaulay Library]

Where Black-chinned Hummingbirds Live:

These hummingbirds inhabit the Western United States during breeding season. They can be found in Texas, New Mexico, parts of Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana and West to the Pacific Coast. They have even been found to travel as far North as the southern part of British Columbia. After the breeding season, some adults will first move to higher altitude mountain habitats where flowers are still abundant because making the long migration south to winter in western Mexico.

What Hummingbirds Eat:

Black-chinned hummingbirds feed on nectar from tubular flowers and insects which they catch during flight or may even pull from spider webs or plants. Hummingbirds will also readily consume artificial nectar from hummingbird feeders. Nectar can be made using a ratio of 1 cup white sugar to 4 cups water. The use of dye or food coloring in artificial nectar is not necessary for attracting hummingbirds to a feeder and is not recommended due to the sensitive nature of these tiny birds.

How to Attract Black-chinned Hummingbirds to Your Feeder:

Placing feeders near flower beds or planters may help attract more
hummingbirds to your feeder. For the best chance of hummingbirds discovering your feeder, it is recommended to have it up and ready before they return from their winter migration. Be sure to research the migratory pattern of hummingbirds in your area to make sure you haven’t put your feeder out too late, since this can cause them to overlook it later in the season. Feeders with built in perches can help these tiny birds conserve energy and feel more comfortable feeding, prolonging feeding times and increasing hummingbird viewing.

black chinned hummingbird at hummingbird feeder

Product shown: Mason Jar Hummingbird Feeder (Model# MJF1)

Nesting:

Most nests are typically located between 6 to 12 feet above the ground on an exposed horizontal branch well below the canopy. Roughly the size of a large thimble (1 inch deep and 2 inches wide), the female builds the nest out of soft down held together with strands of spider silk and cocoon fibers. Nests in cooler areas will typically have thicker walls than those found in warmer climates.

A clutch size is typically 2 eggs that are roughly 0.3 inches wide and 0.5 inches in length. The tiny eggs are white and weigh less than half a gram. Eggs hatch in 12 to 16 days and will fledge the nest after an additional 21 days. Black-chinned hummingbirds can have between 1 to 3 broods per season depending on the weather and breeding location.

Related Articles:

Are you ready for hummingbird season?

Common hummingbird feeders and solutions

Homemade hummingbird nectar recipe

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Bird Feature: Anna's Hummingbird

Bird Feature: Anna's Hummingbird

Identifying Anna's Hummingbirds:

At just under 4 inches in length, Anna's hummingbirds are small in comparison to other birds but in the hummingbird realm they are medium-sized and somewhat stocky. Mostly pale gray on the underside with an iridescent emerald green back, tail, and wings (sometimes also extended around the abdomen), the Anna's hummingbird is distinguishable from the Rufous hummingbird because it lacks any orange or rust-colored markings. While sometimes appearing a dull brown without direct sunlight, the male's face and throat are covered with brilliantly colored fuchsia feathers.

annas hummingbird annas hummingbirds at hummingbird feeder

Left: male. Right: females.

Where Anna's Hummingbirds Live:

These dazzling jewels can be found year-round along the western coast of the US and into Arizona. Occasionally Anna's hummingbirds can be seen in parts of New Mexico in winter months and in rare occasions they can be sighted north along the very coastal western strip of Canada.

What Hummingbirds Eat:

Anna's hummingbirds feed on nectar from tubular flowers, insects which they catch during flight or may even pull from spider webs, and sometimes tree sap. Hummingbirds will also readily consume artificial nectar from hummingbird feeders. Nectar can be made using a ratio of 1 cup white sugar to 4 cups water. The use of dye or food coloring in artificial nectar is not necessary for attracting hummingbirds to a feeder and is not recommended due to the sensitive nature of these tiny birds.

How to Attract Anna's Hummingbirds to Your Feeder:

Placing feeders near flower beds or planters may help attract more
hummingbirds to your feeder. For the best chance of hummingbirds discovering your feeder, it is recommended to have it up and ready before they return from their winter migration. Be sure to research the migratory pattern of hummingbirds in your area to make sure you haven’t put your feeder out too late, since this can cause them to overlook it later in the season. Feeders with built in perches can help these tiny birds conserve energy and feel more comfortable feeding, prolonging feeding times and increasing hummingbird viewing.

anna's hummingbirds feeding from the Nature's Way Vintage Blossom Decorative Glass Hummingbird Feeder

Product shown: Vintage Blossom Decorative Glass Hummingbird Feeder (Model# DGHF3)

Nesting:

Nests are typically built on a horizontal branch of a tree or shrub between 6-20 feet off the ground close to a nectar source. Roughly the size of a large thimble (1 inch deep and 1.5 inches wide), the female constructs the nest over the course of roughly a week using plant down held together with strands of spider silk and camouflages the exterior of the nest with lichen or moss. 

A typical clutch contains 2 eggs that are roughly 0.3 inches wide and 0.5 inches in length. The tiny eggs are white and weigh less than half a gram. Eggs hatch in about 16 days and will fledge the nest after an additional 20 days. Anna's hummingbirds will typically have 2-3 broods per year.

Related Articles:

Are you ready for hummingbird season?

Common hummingbird feeders and solutions

Homemade hummingbird nectar recipe

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Bird Feature: Rufous Hummingbird

Bird Feature: Rufous Hummingbird

Identifying Rufous Hummingbirds:

These small hummingbirds are roughly 2.8-3.5 inches in length and have fairly straight bills and short wings that don't reach the end of the tapered tail when perched. Male Rufous hummingbirds are fiery orange in good light with a bright iridescent red throat. Females are green on their backs with rust colored feathers on their flanks, tail, and often a small patch of orange on the throat as well. Both male and female Rufous hummingbirds are aggressive and can typically be found performing aerial launches to chase off any other hummingbirds that appear, even in areas where they're spending only a short amount of time passing through for migration.

male rufous hummingbird female rufous hummingbird

Left: male. Right: female.

Similar Species:

Both Allen's hummingbirds and Rufous hummingbirds share many of the same physical characteristics and can be extremely hard to distinguish in the field, even by experienced birders. The only true way to decipher between these species is by subtle differences in the shape of their tail feathers. In the Allen's hummingbirds, all tail feathers are narrower than their Rufous counterpart. The Rufous hummingbird has a subtle but distinct notch at the top of the R2 feather (second from center). 

Where Rufous Hummingbirds Live:

During summer breeding season this particular species of hummingbird resides mainly in the Pacific Northwest into the Southwestern strip of Canada in open or shrubby areas of forest openings, yards, and parks, and can also sometimes be found in thickets, swamps, and meadows ranging from sea level to about 6,000 feet. When in their wintering grounds in Mexico, these hummingbirds are found between 7,500 to 10,000 feet elevation in shrubby areas and thorn forests. These birds can also often be found in the Southwestern portion of the United States on their migratory path to Mexico although only for a short period of time while passing through.

What Hummingbirds Eat:

Rufous hummingbirds feed on nectar from tubular flowers and insects which they catch during flight or may even pull from spider webs or plants. Hummingbirds will also readily consume artificial nectar from hummingbird feeders. Nectar can be made using a ratio of 1 cup white sugar to 4 cups water. The use of dye or food coloring in artificial nectar is not necessary for attracting hummingbirds to a feeder and is not recommended due to the sensitive nature of these tiny birds.

How to Attract Rufous  Hummingbirds to Your Feeder:

Placing feeders near flower beds or planters may help attract more
hummingbirds to your feeder. For the best chance of hummingbirds discovering your feeder, it is recommended to have it up and ready before they return from their winter migration. Be sure to research the migratory pattern of hummingbirds in your area to make sure you haven’t put your feeder out too late, since this can cause them to overlook it later in the season. Feeders with built in perches can help these tiny birds conserve energy and feel more comfortable feeding, prolonging feeding times and increasing hummingbird viewing. 

Nesting:

Wasting no time, female Rufous hummingbirds begin constructing their nests within 3 days of arriving at the breeding grounds. Nests are typically located in large deciduous or coniferous trees roughly 30 feet in the air. Roughly the size of a large thimble (1 inch deep and 2 inches wide), the female builds the nest out of soft down held together with strands of spider silk and sometimes pine resin and camouflages the exterior of the nest with lichen or moss. 

A typical clutch size is typically 2-3 eggs that are roughly 0.3 inches wide and 0.5 inches in length. The tiny eggs are white and weigh less than half a gram. Eggs hatch in 15 to 17 days and will fledge the nest after an additional 15 to 19 days.

Related Articles:

Are you ready for hummingbird season?

Common hummingbird feeders and solutions

Homemade hummingbird nectar recipe

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Bird Feature: Ruby Throated Hummingbird

Bird Feature: Ruby Throated Hummingbird

Identifying Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds:

Beating their wings on average 53 times per second, these quick little birds are a bright emerald green on the back of the head down to the tail. While both male and female have a grey-white underside, only the males have a very distinct ruby red patch on their throat. The shade of red and size of the patch can vary from bird to bird, with the feathers sometimes appearing very dark until catching the light.

male ruby throated hummingbird female ruby throated hummingbird
Left: male. Right: female.

Where Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds Live:

This particular species of hummingbird lives in forest edges, meadows, grasslands, open woodlands, and in gardens, parks, and backyards. During the summer months of breeding season these birds can be found across the Eastern half of the United States and the southern portion of Canada. This is the only species of hummingbird found in the Eastern United States. Despite their small stature, most of these little birds make the amazing trek all the way to southern Mexico for winter months, while a small number may remain in the southern most tip of Florida.

What Hummingbirds Eat:

Ruby-throated hummingbirds feed on nectar from tubular flowers, insects which they catch during flight or may even pull from spider webs, and sometimes tree sap. Hummingbirds will also readily consume artificial nectar from hummingbird feeders. Nectar can be made using a ratio of 1 cup white sugar to 4 cups water. The use of dye or food coloring in artificial nectar is not necessary for attracting hummingbirds to a feeder and is not recommended due to the sensitive nature of these tiny birds.

How to Attract Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds to Your Feeder:

Placing feeders near flower beds or planters may help attract more
hummingbirds to your feeder. For the best chance of hummingbirds discovering your feeder, it is recommended to have it up and ready before they return from their winter migration. Be sure to research the migratory pattern of hummingbirds in your area to make sure you haven’t put your feeder out too late, since this can cause them to overlook it later in the season. Feeders with built in perches can help these tiny birds conserve energy and feel more comfortable feeding, prolonging feeding times and increasing hummingbird viewing.

ruby throated hummingbirds at Nature's Way Illuminated Hummingbird Feeder

Nesting:

Nests are typically built on a slender branch between 10-40 feet off the ground but have also been found in more surprising locations such as wire, loops of chains, and extension cords. Roughly the size of a large thimble (1 inch deep and 2 inches wide), the female builds the nest out of thistle or dandelion down held together with strands of spider silk and sometimes pine resin and camouflages the exterior of the nest with lichen or moss. 

A typical clutch size can range from 1-3 eggs that are roughly 0.3 inches wide and 0.5 inches in length. The tiny eggs are white and weigh less than half a gram. Eggs hatch in roughly two weeks and will fledge the nest after an additional 18-22 days.

Related Articles:

Are you ready for hummingbird season?

Common hummingbird feeders and solutions

Homemade hummingbird nectar recipe

Read more →

Bird Feature: Downy Woodpecker

Bird Feature: Downy Woodpecker

Identifying Downy Woodpeckers:

Ranging from 5.5 to 6.7 inches in length and featuring a straight, chisel-like bill, blocky head, and wide shoulders, the Downy Woodpecker is a small version of the standard woodpecker build. Compared to other woodpeckers, the Downy Woodpecker's bill is significantly smaller in relation to its head, however it is still a forceful tool for extracting insects from trees. Sporting a black and white checkered appearance, both males and females have a white underside, black upper wing and checkered lower wings with a boldly striped face and white stripe down the center of the back. The center of the tail is black, outlined by white border feathers that are typically lightly speckled with black spots. Males are easily differentiated by a bold red patch on the back of their heads.

female downy woodpecker on a tree male downy woodpecker on a tree

  Left: Female Downy Woodpecker. Right: Male Downy Woodpecker

 Attracting Downy Woodpeckers to your feeder:

These small woodpeckers can be found in open woodlands and also frequent orchards, vacant lots, city parks, and backyards making them quite common at feeders. As with other woodpeckers and insect eating birds, suet is a safe bet when trying to attract these checkered visitors. Suet feeders with extended bases provide space for these bottom-heavy birds to prop their tail for comfortable feeding, much like they would naturally on the trunk of a tree. Peanuts and black oil sunflower are also favorites of the Downy Woodpecker. These can be fed in an open tray feeder or even a window feeder for up-close bird viewing.

In summer months, it is not unusual to see Downy Woodpeckers visiting Oriole feeders with grape jelly or even Hummingbird feeders with nectar. 

Downy Woodpecker on CWF1    Downy Woodpecker on cedar tray feeder

downy woodpecker eating from window bird feeder    Downy Woodpecker on cedar hopper feeder with suet

 Products shown: Tail-prop Suet Feeder (Model# CWF1)Hanging Platform Feeder (Model# WWCF23)Clear View Window Feeder (Model# WIN-3)3 QT Hopper Feeder w/ 2 Suet Cages (Model# WWCF28)

Nesting:

Downy Woodpeckers are cavity nesters and nest in dead trees, often deciduous trees infected with a fungus which makes the wood softer and easier to excavate. Excavating the nest cavity takes roughly 1 to 3 weeks and both male and female share in the work. When complete, the cavity will be 6-12 inches deep, widening toward the bottom and lined only with wood chips. Pairs will have 1 brood per year with an average clutch size of anywhere from 3-8 eggs.

Eggs are roughly 0.8 inches in length and 0.6 inches and are completely white. Eggs typically hatch within 12 days and the young will fledge in an additional 20 days. 

Distinguishing between a Downy and Hairy Woodpecker:

Downy Woodpeckers are roughly two-thirds the size of Hairy Woodpeckers. Since this can be fairly hard to establish in the field, some birders use their feeders as indicator of size and scale. Another establishing feature of the Downy Woodpecker are distinguishable black bars on the white tail feathers in contrast to the all white side tail feathers of the Hairy Woodpecker. If the bird's bill is visible, the major difference in bill size. The Downy’s bill is roughly one-third the length of the bird’s head, while the Hairy’s bill is almost as long as the its head - a railroad spike in comparison. An additional, less reliable distinguishing feature is that the male Hairy Woodpecker's red patch is often split in two, while the Downy’s is not.

Hairy and Downy Woodpecker comparison image

Left: Hairy Woodpecker. Right: Downy Woodpecker. Illustrations from the book "A Field Guide to the birds" by Roger Tory Peterson.

 

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Bird Feature: House Finch

Bird Feature: House Finch

Identifying House Finches:

These small bodied finches have large beaks, shorter wings, and a comparably long slightly notched tail. Roughly 5 to 5.5 inches in length, these streaky grayish-brown finches are dimorphous, with the males distinctly marked by rosy red coloring around the face and upper breast. Coloring can vary from bird to bird as the red of a male House Finch comes from pigments contained in its food during molt. This means the more pigment in the food, the redder the male. 

Attracting House Finches to Your Feeder:

House Finches aren't fussy feeders and will readily frequent a variety of feeder types and are consistent visitors throughout the majority of the year. This is because these finches eat almost exclusively plant material including, but not limited to, seeds, buds, and fruit. In fact, House Finches even feed their nestlings exclusively plant foods, a fairly rare occurrence in the bird world. Recommended feeds include millet, milo, thistle, and the preferred black oil sunflower seeds. As is typical for finches, these birds are very social and are often found in large groups. To maximize bird viewing, consider placing feeders with a large number of feeding ports like a tall tube feeder, or wide open feeding access like a tray feeder

In addition to feeders, be sure to offer a source of fresh water. You may also consider planting native vegetation to provide a natural source of food. Depending on geographic location, House Finches will consume mustard seeds, knotweed, thistle, mulberry, poison oak, cactus, and many other species. When planting trees and shrubs, keep in mind that these finches eat cherries, apricots, peaches, pears, plums, strawberries, blackberries, and figs.

House finches feeding from tray feeder

House Finches are susceptible to House Finch eye disease (also called Mycoplasmal conjunctivitis). Infected birds will have red, swollen, runny, or crusty eyes. It is always important to regularly clean your feeders following our feeder care tips. For more on this disease, visit Cornell lab. If you see any birds showing these symptoms at your feeders, we recommend taking down all feeders for a week or so until the sick birds have moved on.

Nesting:

House Finches nest in a variety of locations depending on geographic location including deciduous and coniferous trees as well as on cactus and rock ledges. They will also nest in or on buildings, using sites like vents, ledges, street lamps, ivy. Have you ever found a bird nest in your hanging planters? There is a good chance that it belongs to a House Finch! The nest is cup shaped and made of fine stems, leaves, rootlets, thin twigs, string, wool, and feathers. The inside of the nest is rather small at just 1-3 inches across and up to 2 inches deep.

A typical clutch size can range from 2-6 eggs. Eggs are approximately 0.75" long, 0.5" wide, and are a very pale blue to white with fine dark speckles. Incubation period is typically around 14 days and hatchlings are ready to fledge in as few as 12 days after hatching. Because of this short period, House Finches can have as many as 6 broods during a year.

House finch nest in hanging flower basket

 

Have you seen any House Finches on your feeders recently?

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Bird Feature: Baltimore Oriole

Bird Feature: Baltimore Oriole

Identifying Baltimore Orioles:

Slightly smaller and more slender than an American Robin, Baltimore Orioles range from 6.7 to 7.5 inches in length and feature long legs, a thick neck, and long pointed bills. Adult male Baltimore Orioles have black feathers on their head and wings, bright orange tell-tale plumage on their chest and underside, and a single solid white bar on each wing. Females and immature males are a more muted yellow-orange with grayish shading on the head, and gray wings with two white bars on each wing. 

Female Baltimore Oriole on jelly feeder   Male Baltimore Oriole on nectar feeder

Above left: A female Baltimore Oriole on a specialized jelly and orange feeder.

Above right: A male Baltimore Oriole on a specialized feeder offering nectar, jelly, and oranges.

 

Where Baltimore Orioles Live:

Baltimore Orioles are a migratory bird that breed in the eastern portion of the United States and South-central Canada during summer months. Keep an eye out for these birds arriving from early April to mid-May. Their season is short, with some departing as early as late July for wintering grounds in Florida, the Caribbean, and Central America. 

 

How to Attract Baltimore Orioles to Your Feeder:

These birds are often heard more than seen as they typically forage high in trees for insects, flowers, and fruit. They tend to be more skittish than other backyard birds, but you can be successful in attracting them to feeders. One of the simplest ways to attract Baltimore Orioles to your yard is to set up an oriole feeder. 

Maintaining a clean feeder is always important for the health of your birds, but is even more important when offering feeds rich in sugar as these feeds can spoil quickly, especially in the hot summer weather. It is recommended oriole feeders be cleaned every 4-5 days. To clean, take down your feeder and discard any unconsumed jelly or fruit. Flush feeder with warm water. Scrub using either a mild solution of unscented dish detergent and warm water, or sanitize using a solution of 9 parts water to 1 part bleach. Rinse thoroughly and allow to dry completely before refilling.

Female Baltimore Oriole eating grape jelly

What Baltimore Orioles Eat:

In the spring and fall, a Baltimore Oriole's diet is composed mainly of nectar and ripe fruit. Including flowering trees and shrubs such as crabapple and mulberries in your landscaping can help to draw these birds to your yard. The most common food offering for Baltimore Oriole's are oranges, which can be sliced in half and placed in a specialized feeder, or even nailed directly to a tree (or impaled through a smaller branch). A slightly more specialized feeder can allow the offering of additional feed options, such as nectar (sugar water) and grape jelly.  

While breeding and feeding their young, a significant portion of the Baltimore Oriole's diet consists of protein-rich insects. Not overall picky, these birds will consume a wide variety of beetles, crickets, caterpillars, snails, and other small invertebrates. The protein derived from these insects is pivotal in the growth and development of the young, and we strongly encourage withholding the use of broad-spectrum insecticides in your yard to ensure a food source during this crucial stage. 

 

Nesting:

Baltimore Orioles build extremely unique hanging sock-like nests woven together from slender fibers constructed in the slender upper branches of a tree. Typically these nests are 3 to 4 inches deep with a smaller opening on top and a bulging bottom chamber up to 4 inches across where the eggs are laid. Females gather materials for and construct the nest within the territory defended by her mate. Males will occasionally aid in collection of nesting materials which can consist of long grass, strips of grapevine bark, horsehair, as well as artificial materials such as twine or fishing line (*please do not purposefully set out these artificial materials as they are not the safest options for the birds).  

Each pair will raise one brood consisting of 3-7 eggs each season. Eggs are roughly an inch in length and 0.6-0.7 inches in width and are a pale gray with black or brown marbling. Eggs typically hatch within 14 days and the young will fledge in an additional 14 days. 

Have you seen any Baltimore Orioles on your feeders recently?

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Bird Feature: White-breasted Nuthatch

Bird Feature: White-breasted Nuthatch

National Wild Bird Feeding Month is February. To celebrate, we have asked employees to name their favorite birds. This week's bird is a favorite of Julie, our Sales Coordinator - the White-breasted Nuthatch.

Identifying White-breasted Nuthatches:

The largest of the nuthatches, the White-breasted nuthatch is still a small bird averaging 5" to 5.5" in length with a wingspan ranging from 8"-10.5". With gray-blue coloring on the back, a white face, and white underparts this bird features a very short tail. Typical of most nuthatches, the White-breasted nuthatch has a large head and almost no neck. Its long, narrow bill is straight or sometimes slightly upturned. Males feature a black cap that runs from the beak down the back of the neck (on females this cap is dark gray). Most commonly found in woods and woodland edges of deciduous forests, these agile birds can often be seen creeping along tree trunks and large branches, often turned sideways and upside-down on vertical surfaces as they forage. 

Attracting White-breasted Nuthatches to Your Feeder:

 

White-breasted nuthatches eat mainly insects. The types of insects they consume is wide-ranging and includes wood-boring beetle larvae, weevil larvae, scale insects, ants, gall fly larvae, caterpillars, stinkbugs, click beetles, and a host of other insect pests. While it may be hard, refrain from spraying pesticides in and around your yard as it removes these birds' natural food source.

These nuthatches will also eat seeds and nuts like acorns, hawthorn, and sunflower seeds. We recommend filling feeders like tube feeders or hopper feeders with black-oil sunflower to attract these birds. Nuthatches are also big fans of many types of suet and peanuts and are able to cling sideways and upside-down on suet cages and mesh, making upside-down suet feeders or mesh peanut feeders an ideal option for these birds.  

Nesting:

Typically built in natural tree cavities or abandoned woodpecker holes, white-breasted nuthatches will sometimes enlarge these holes but will very rarely excavate them entirely. Females construct the nest on their own. After lining the nest cavity is with fur, bark, and lumps of dirt, she will then build a nest cup of fine grass, feathers, shredded bark, and other various soft materials. White-breasted nuthatches will often reuse their nest holes in following years, and they will sometimes use man-made nest boxes. 

Clutches consist of 5-9 creamy white eggs speckled with reddish brown that are roughly 0.6" wide and 0.8" long. Eggs hatch after a two week incubation period and will fledge after 26 days. White-breasted nuthatches typically have 1 brood a year. 

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