Builders of the Pendulous Nest
About eight inches long, male Baltimore Orioles have a black hood, back, and wings; brilliant orange underparts and rump; and a black and orange tail. Female and immature birds are more yellow-orange, and mostly brownish in the areas that males display black.
Orioles breed in diverse habitats, favoring woodland edge and open farm or residential areas with tall deciduous trees. Most frequently built by the female, the their pensile nest is bigger at the bottom than at the top, looking like a light bulb, and hangs from thin branches suspended in forks at the tips of branches of deciduous trees.
I once witnessed first one nestling, then a second, fall from a nest at the edge of a branch of a tall oak tree during an early, windy, summer thunderstorm. The female parent screamed—it’s the only way I can describe it—as each nestling fell to the ground. I have never forgotten the sound of that distraught, helpless mother.
The three-stage construction of the nest takes up to two weeks to complete. Bringing a single fiber at a time, the female begins with the outer bowl, woven of long, strong, fibrous materials for support, and woven around the twigs that will hold the nest. Sometimes hanging upside down, she next weaves softer fibers into the shell, giving the nest form. Finally, she weaves soft fibers of feathers, grasses, animal hairs, string or lint into the lining of the gourd-shaped nest.
The female alone incubates the eggs, but both sexes feed the nestlings by regurgitation for the first few days, and later by placing caterpillars and other insects into the gaping mouths of the young. Both sexes engage in keeping the nest clean, first by eating the fecal sacs of the young, later by removing and then dropping them at a distance from the nest. Just before fledging, the nestlings will sometimes stand and poop over the rim of the nest. How sweet is that?
Tending to its daily toilette during midday hours, an oriole preens and cleans its feathers by stretching a wing and leg of the same side simultaneously, while spreading the tail under the outstretched wing and running its bill through individual feathers putting them back in order.
Orioles are one the relatively few bird species to engage in “anting.” Not clearly understood, anting is thought to be some birds’ way of de-lousing. In passive anting, the bird sits on an anthill allowing the insects to crawl over it. Active anting is when the bird takes an ant into its bill, crushes it, and spreads the ant’s body fluid under its wings and at the base of its tail. Only ants that produce chemicals, particularly formic acid, are used. Presumably, the chemical kills feather mites.
To encourage orioles in your neighborhood, especially now as they arrive in full force fromMexicoandSouth America, offer oranges halved and impaled on a tree. Once the pulp is eaten, the skins make great natural bowls to hold grape jelly, which orioles and many other species devour. Listen for the loud, rich, high-whistled note announcing the orioles’ presence at the feeder. Try to track them to see if you can locate one at its pendulum-like nest, a sight that will prove worth your time and effort.
While we at Marine Parts Express do not build nests nor allow ants to crawl on us (I love the phrase “passive anting” and can’t wait to use it at a dinner party), we do consider our customers as part of the marine family and eagerly await being of service to you. Come visit us on marinepartsexpress.com, or call us toll-free at 877.621.2628. –J.D. Neeson
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Marine Parts Express is a division of Water Resources, Inc., a privately held Maine Corporation.
For all your marine engine parts needs, call us toll free at 877.621.2628, or outside the U.S. at 207.882.6165.
May 19, 2011 / Noreen O'Brien / 0
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Margaret Graham Neeeson
Margaret Graham Neeson
Marine Parts Express