It is springtime in Santa Fe, and the spectacular bird migration is well underway.
Billions of birds are flying across our continent, making their way from Central America and Mexico to northern nesting grounds. From tiny hummingbirds and warblers to large sandhill cranes, many of the birds you are seeing travel hundreds and even thousands of miles round-trip up and down the Western Hemisphere.
One of my favorite migratory species seen here in Santa Fe are orioles — Bullock’s and Scott’s. Both species are widespread and common with only slight declines in population in recent decades.
Male Bullock’s orioles have a sharply pointed bill, as do their relatives, blackbirds. Adult males are bright orange with a black back and a large white wing patch. Other distinctive markings include a black line through the eye and a black throat. Its song is four to eight medium-pitched whistle notes, “goo gidoo, goo peeka, peeka.” Its call is a two-note “teetoo” and a rapid chatter “ch’ch’ch’ch’ch’.” They typically inhabit deciduous trees near openings, such as parks, gardens and roads.
Male Scott’s orioles have a black back, head and breast with yellow below. They display a white wing bar, plus a yellow shoulder, bordered in white. Their bill is pointed and slightly curved. The Scott’s oriole is one of the first birds to start singing each day, starting before sunrise. Its song is clear, whistled phrases with a slight gurgling quality. Its call is a relatively low, harsh “chak “or “cherk.” They typically inhabit arid foothills and mountains down to deserts. Found in piñon pines and juniper.
Orioles forage by searching for insects. They visit flowers for nectar and will come to sugar-water solution feeders. They are also attracted to pieces of fruit (orange halves) and grape jelly.
The Bullock’s nest is a distinctive hanging pouch, while the Scott’s nest is basketlike. The nests are tightly woven of plant fibers, grass, yarn and string, lined with fine grass, plant down and hair. Orioles typically raise two broods from April to July, each with about four eggs and an incubation period of 11 days. The young leave the nest about 14 days after hatching.
Watch for and enjoy these beautiful orioles at your feeders over the next few months until they once again head south to Mexico and Central America this fall.