Saturday, September 10, 2011

An Oriole Irruption

Irruption--an irregular migration of a large number of birds to areas where they aren’t typically found, usually motivated by the search for food. 

A young male Baltimore Oriole pauses before plucking out the bee-guard so he can sip with ease.  Later the bees will make use of his effort.

We've been having spring weather -- that would be high temps in the 90's instead of 110F -- and I'm filling the hummer feeders all the way up now that the food doesn't ferment by 3:00pm. Good thing, since we've had some unexpected visitors.

Over the Labor Day weekend I started seeing birds in the American Beautyberry bushes (Callicarpa americana) by the bedroom window.  Small greeny-yellow birds with wingbars.  Warblers? 

But the beak was the wrong shape.  Warblers have thin little beaks for eating bugs, not berries.

Female Orchard Oriole, the smallest member of the North American oriole family.

Then we started seeing orioles from all the windows...

Male Baltimore Oriole eating seeds of Big Red Sage (Salvia penstemonoides).

 Female Baltimore Oriole in blooming Firebush (Hamelia patens).

Young male Baltimore Oriole protecting 'his' hummingbird feeder.

Male Baltimore oriole snacking on ripe purple berries in the American Beautyberry bushes (Callicarpa americana)

Most of the orioles have moved on now, which is probably just fine with the dozens of migrating hummingbirds that have shown up in the past two days.  

The orioles were the first we've seen in our five years here and there were more than just a stray or two. I'm guessing they're part of an irruption from the historical migration pattern. 

Did the scorched-earth drought make them hug the Hill Country rivers on their southbound journey?  Perhaps columns of smoke sent them our way.

We'll never know.  But I do know this, I'm glad we had berries, feeders and water on offer.  The flash of sunset feathers in the foliage is like seeing hope.  And we can all use more of that.

Copyright 2009-2011 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.


  1. I've had Baltimore Orioles in my yard this week, too. And Yellow-breasted Chats which I almost never see in fall migration. And, of course, there's that Rufous Hummingbird! It's been an unusual migration season to say the least.

  2. Saw my first Baltimore Oriole ever. What a beautiful bird. He has been hanging around my hummer feeder. You snapped some wonderful pics of him. He was too fast for me. By the time I grabbed my camera...he was gone.

  3. Great pics. It's always wonderful to contemplate the various ranges and habitats of species. I don't think I've ever seen an oriole around here in my 50 years.


  4. I wasn unaware that was an actual bird name - just a team. We have Scott's Oriole out here, of all names! But not enough to have gotten any pictures, so far.

  5. I haven't seen any Orioles here. They certainly are striking birds though - I'd love to see some.

  6. Wow! Those are our official state birds, but I've never actually seen one aside from pictures. They're super pretty, I wish they'd come home!

  7. How beautiful they all are dear Kathleen and fortunate for these lovely birds that they have found the bounty of your kindness and care for all living creatures.
    I love listening to the birds singing in the morning, during the day and at dusk when they are settling down for the night, it is such a lovely blessing.
    xoxoxo ♡

  8. Oh, I wish I'd seen them in my garden! Lovely!

  9. I am thrilled to read your post! One morning last weekend I was talking my husband at the breakfast table. I looked out the window right behind him and my mouth gaped open. About 6-7 Baltimore Orioles flitting about in our Red Cannas and Crepe Myrtle. Very near our Red Sage. At least one female and several males.

    I'd never seen such beautiful orange feathers on a birth, at least not in my memory. We weren't sure if they were Baltimore or Orchard Orioles. You settled it for us! I wish they would come back - although not too happy with the way they pecked the Canna blooms off the top of the plants.

  10. Thank you for this post which does offer hope and yes, we all need more of that.

  11. Beautiful, Katleen!
    I am hoping that you all did fine through this bad fire season in Texas.
    Hugs from NYC. N2

  12. I saw one here in Hays County a few weeks ago, and saw one in Colorado County this weekend. Fun to see new birds!

  13. I just spotted one ayt one of my watering stations today, just west of Buda. Wasn't in my "Birds of Texas" books, but realized after a search it IS an Baltimore Oriole. I am looking at him now! He is near hummingbirds, a cardinal, a ladder back woodpecker - such a great shot. So happy I put out more water sources for them.

  14. Hi Kathleen, we also have orioles endemic here in the country, they are a bit lighter orange than those Baltimore orioles you posted. In our yard they often quarrel with the crows, maybe the crows try to snatch the oriol offsprings. Their cries are so loud and fierce that really drive the crows. That word is again new to me, irruption, I learned two things from you this morning, the other is the hawk moths in my post. Thank you very much for both!

  15. Kathleen,

    Lucky to have these birds at your feeders and in the garden. Around here in NC birders put out grape jelly for them and have them all winter. Saw the sugar you give the hummers, my bees go through 10 lbs a week. We let the hummers just enjoy the garden, lots still around.

  16. Kathleen,

    In winter ants don't bother the jelly. I think you just put in on a plate or in a fly through feeder.

  17. The orioles are gorgeous. I never cease to be amazed by your superb photographic skills, Kathleen.

  18. Loved the photos. I don't believe I've ever seen an oriole. I guess I'm just so used to Quaker parrots, Herons, and seagulls I forget there are others out there.


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