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The way that the Baltimore Oriole originally was named is extremely interesting within itself. It goes back a long way and is just one of many attributes to this beautiful, handsome, orange-and-black songbird.
It seems that when Cecil Calvert, Second Baron of Baltimore, came to live with a company of English colonists in what is now Maryland, the settlement was named Baltimore in his honor. Some of the colonists sent back to England the orange-and-black skins of this beautiful bird. and because those colors were the family colors of Lord Baltimore, Linnaeus, the great Swedish naturalist, named this bird the Baltimore Oriole in his honor.
The real Lady Baltimore Oriole is the actual designer and builder of a masterpiece of a nest that is a site to behold, and while My Lady toils, My Lord does nothing much except sit around and whistle and look handsome.
She requires a semi-open habitat and will build in a large tree but not in a forest. The tree that was most often chosen for its location in the past was the American Elm, with its drooping branches. However, after Dutch Elm's disease decimated so many of these trees, you can look for this hanging basket of a nest in a Sycamore or a Willow and sometimes even in a Hackberry tree. I have also noticed these nests frequently hanging high above roadways.
The nest may be 6 feet to 60 feet above the ground but usually 25 feet to 30 feet high. It is always attached to a drooping branch and is usually a 10-inch deep pouch. but on rare occasions it can be 2 feet long. It is constructed of plant fiber (Milkweed and Indian Hemp), hair, yarn, string and grapevine bark, lined with hair, wool, fine grasses and cottony materials.
The opening is at the top and very rarely on the side.
Lady Baltimore normally builds a new nest every year, sometimes in the same tree from previous years, and she actually will accept short pieces of yarn for nesting materials with apparently no color preference.
She typically lays four eggs, often five and rarely six. The eggs have a smooth shell with a slight gloss. They are pale grayish white or pale bluish white and are streaked, scrawled or blotched with browns or blacks and the primary coloration is concentrated at the large end. She incubates for 12 to 14 days with one brood being raised,
The young are very noisy both before and after leaving the nest, for which reason they have been called "Cry-Babies" of the bird world.
The Baltimore Oriole. an 8.75-inch-long bird with a 11.5-inch-long wingspan, arrives in Kentucky from its winter home in Colombia and Southern Mexico in the last two weeks of April and actually does migrate day or night. The male starts singing immediately upon arrival, (females can also sing, which is unusual), while staking out his territory, and nest building has been seen before the first of May, followed by young calling the first week of June.
The male oriole's song is a short series of rich, clear, whistled notes – "pidoo tewdi, tewdi, yewdi, tew tidew” – variable in pattern, with pauses between each phrase and also often given off as a simple 2-note whistle "hulee" and variations. The call is a dry, harsh uneven rattle. Their flight call is a husky, tinny, trumpeting "veet."
The Baltimore Oriole breeds from Nova Scotia, Ontario, Southern Manitoba and Central Alberta, south to Northern Georgia, Central Louisiana and Southern Texas and west to Central Montana and Eastern Colorado.
This bird is a real boon to the agricultural community as its favorite foods upon arriving from the wintering tropics include the boll-weevil in the cotton-producing areas and caterpillars and grasshoppers in all of the other areas, with vegetable matter being only 16 percent of its diet.
Unfortunately for us, this songbird starts departing for the southern climes by early August and is rarely seen in Kentucky by mid-September ,with flocks of a dozen migrating orioles being seen at times.
The Baltimore Oriole is significantly declining in numbers, probably because of what may be going on in its winter home. We always must shop for groceries shop on a local basis, not only to help our neighbors but also to help our migratory birds that live south of the border in the winter. After all, we definitely want to be able to continue enjoying Lord and Lady Baltimore in the Great Outdoors.
To read more columns about birds by Horace Brown, visit www.SentinelNews.com/recreation. Horace Brown is a civil/sanitary engineer, land surveyor and nature photographer and writer. To contact him or order a copy of Brown’s 2014 Eagles, Falcons, Hawks & Vultures Calendar, E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, call 502-682-7711 or write 527 Main St., Shelbyville 40065.