We’re passionate about birds and nature. That’s why we opened a Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop in our community.
Vintage Oaks at Novato,
104 Vintage Way, Suite A-7
Novato, CA 94945
Phone: (415) 893-0500
Fax: (415) 893-0511
Email: Send Message
Mon - Sat: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Sun: 11:00 am - 5:00 pm
Located between Macy's Furniture/BevMo and Pier 1.
. . . they chatter like blackbirds; the fire bursts forth on their backs when they lift their wings.
- Thoreau, The Journal, 1852
Male Hooded Oriole – Local Photo by Susie Kelly
Thoreau quickly arrives at the oriole essence: these blackbird relatives share some similarities of shape and chattering calls with their plainer cousins, but are distinguished by their brilliant golden plumage, which has few rivals among our local birds. Here, we have two oriole species which spend their summer nesting season with us, and both can be attracted to feeders. Hooded Orioles and Bullock's Orioles arrive beginning in late March and depart between August and September.
Both species will enjoy the same nectar solution used to feed hummingbirds, jelly (try our special grape/blackberry mix in a squeeze bottle, or spoon out grape and similar jellies), and mealworms. Although you may read of orioles loving orange slices, this unfortunately seems to be a preference of the eastern Baltimore Orioles and doesn't seem to be very effective here. While fruit may sometimes be eaten, jelly and nectar (sugar water) are the clear favorites. For offering nectar, while orioles can use some hummingbird feeders, a specialty oriole feeder such as the one shown above has some advantages: wider ports to accommodate their beaks, larger size perches, and jelly-holding cups in the lid in addition to the main sugar water basin.
Nearly all Hooded Oriole nest sites here can be referred to by street address
- Dave Shuford, Marin County Breeding Bird Atlas
Some hummingbird feeders, such as this feeder by First Nature, have feeding ports that are wide enough for orioles to access. Some do not.
Male Hooded Orioles are easily differentiated from male Bullock's Orioles: Hoodeds have a black throat, wings, and tail, while Bullock's have a black eyeline, cap, and central tail feathers.
Females are a little more difficult, with both species somewhat resembling giant female goldfinches. To distinguish the two females, first look for accompanying males (usually you'll only have one or the other oriole species) and note that Hoodeds have longer, slightly downcurved beaks in all plumages. Female Bullock's (pictured) have straighter beaks and a very white belly in contrast to the dull yellow belly of the female Hoodeds.
Visit our Bird of the Month archive to see more pages like this.