An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and Bird of the Week, the Hooded Oriole
Aug 23, 2017 11:48PM
By Paul Spear
A New Species from Our Estuary! An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and Bird of the Week, Bryan Brillhart Photography present the “Dig IB” Bird of the Week, the Hooded Oriole!
The Hooded Oriole
This week’s “Bird of the Week” is the Hooded oriole (Icterus cucullatus) , a medium size New World oriole. In the hot lowlands of the Southwest, this slim oriole is often common in the trees along streams and in the suburbs. It is especially likely to be seen around palms, frequently
attaching its hanging nest to the underside of a palm frond. In yards and gardens it often visits hummingbird feeders to drink the sugar-water. The jumbled, musical song of the male sometimes includes imitations of other birds. Their numbers have declined sharply in southern Texas in recent decades, perhaps owing to cowbird parasitism. They may be making a slight comeback in that area in recent years, and are still fairly common farther west.
Hooded orioles are found in open woods, shade trees, and palms. They breed in groves of trees (such as cottonwood, walnut, sycamore) along streams and in canyons, and in open woods in lowlands. Hooded orioles are often common in suburbs and city parks, and especially favor palm trees, and will nest in isolated groups of palms even in cities.
They forage rather slowly and deliberately in trees and large shrubs, gleaning insects from among foliage or feeding on berries. They regularly probe in flowers for nectar and probably take insects there as well. They are also a common visitor to hummingbird feeders. Diet includes insects, berries, and nectar. They also feed on a variety of insects, and may especially favor caterpillars, but they also eat beetles, wasps, ants, and many others, and also feed on many wild berries, and sometimes on cultivated fruit. They take nectar from flowers, and will come to feeders to drink sugar-water.
After mating, females lay 4, sometimes 3-5 whitish, irregularly blotched with brown, lavender, and gray eggs. Incubation is by females in about 12-14 days. Bronzed Cowbirds very frequently lay eggs in nests of this species. Young are fed by both parents, and leave their nests in about 14 days after hatching. They yield 2 broods per year, sometimes 3.
In courtship, males move around females, posturing with deep bows and then pointing their bills straight up while singing softly. Females may respond with similar posturing. Nests are often placed in palms or large yuccas, sewn to the underside of a large overhanging leaf; usually 10-50' above ground, but can be lower. Sometimes nests are placed under a banana leaf, in clump of mistletoe or Spanish moss, or suspended from a branch of a deciduous tree. Nests are a woven hanging pouch of grass and plant fibers, lined with plant down, hair, and feathers. Females build nests, but males may help bring nest building materials.
Most Hooded orioles in our area are migratory, but a few remain through winter, especially where
sugar-water feeders are provided. They are an early migrant in both spring and fall, with many arriving in March and departing in August.
I have seen these birds sneaking a sugary dink at my hummingbird feeder, and along the many trails in the Tijuana Estuary. Look for this colorful bird in your own backyard too. Until next week, happy birding!
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