The kids are coming home and I’m excited.
OK, they’re not really my kids, but I feed them and provide a place for them to stay, so they might as well be.
In the next few days, the brightly colored hooded oriole males will begin straggling into San Diego County from their winter homes in Mexico.
They have made a long, challenging journey and will welcome the energy provided by orange slices, grape jelly or nectar feeders filled with fresh sugar water.
By mid-March, local gardens will be buzzing with both males and females as they delight birders with their comical antics, bickering and nest building activities.
Over the summer they will construct delicately woven pouch nests, lay eggs and raise a crop of youngsters. By late summer the fledglings will add crowds to feeders as they fatten up in preparation for their first migration to Mexico.
By mid-September the orioles will be gone.
This seasonal display is much anticipated by local bird lovers, and researcher Yara Fisher wants to encourage others to put out the welcome mat for them.
Fisher, a San Diego resident, is pursuing an online master’s degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in the Advanced Inquiry Program that includes experiential learning through San Diego Zoo Global.
Her love of orioles in particular has prompted her to reach out to engage the wider public to attract, feed and care for these beautiful birds.
To help spread the word and track participation, Fisher wants to encourage people to share their images and videos of their feeding stations, bird baths and oriole visitors on social media using the hashtags #birdfromhome #weloveorioles and #sdorioles.
“We are challenged to make a difference in our communities through community engagement in conservation. This year, I am trying to raise awareness of the oriole migration in San Diego and provide easy tips for people to become involved in attracting and providing sustenance to these beauties,” she said.
Wild birds in general and orioles in particular are an easy way to get people to connect with nature.
“I think the oriole may be a nice gateway bird to feed and watch given its unique and stunning presence here,” Fisher said.
It’s a labor of love for Fisher who is a third-generation bird lover, having learned from her grandfather.
Fisher sees wild birds as an easy way for people to connect with nature, even in their own private spaces.
“Attracting and feeding wild birds can increase the welfare of the birds as well as contribute to our mental health,” she said.
She hopes to encourage people to change their behavior and to understand they can become involved with wild birds even if they live in a small apartment or urban setting.
“I hear people say they have not seen any birds to feed, but you have to attract them,” she said.
Birds also attract birds, so putting out feeders and birdbaths will bring in more common species initially.
What makes the colorful hooded oriole so much fun is the ease with which they can be attracted, even to small places like an apartment balcony.
Attracting wild birds is like having a pet, but so much easier.
“You do need to keep feeders clean and make sure birds are safe from predators like house cats and maybe put decals on large windows, so birds don’t fly into them,” she said.
After that you just need a bit of patience.
“It may take a little time for them to show up the first season, but once they find the food they will return,” she said. “If you hear something different, that might be the first sign that orioles have arrived.”
The most popular food that birders put out for hooded orioles is a simple mixture of one part sugar and four parts water in a feeder designed for the larger beaks of the birds. The addition of red dye is not necessary.
This is the same nectar that hummingbirds devour, but orioles can’t feed through the small holes of hummingbird feeders. Oriole feeders allow both species to feed.
During the peak of oriole season, you may refill feeders frequently. Take time to clean them completely, since mold will easily develop in the sugar water mixture.
Orioles also like orange slices and there are feeders that allow you to attach an open grape jelly jar.
Orioles are messy with the grape jelly, so hang those over garden areas to avoid sticky walkways or patio furniture.
Once these lively birds find your feeders, you can enjoy a summer of activity. Males arrive first, then the females and that’s when you find them hanging upside down under your feeder, sliding down a wire to get to a feeder, or head bobbing as they bicker over who gets to eat first.
The almost electric yellow-orange and jet black of the male make them easy to identify. Females have more muted hues.
In mid-summer the fledglings will arrive, and this will increase the demand on your feeders. If you enjoy having the orioles around, keep the feeders clean and full.
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