News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Sisters Country birds: Bullock’s Oriole

Bullock’s Orioles (Icterus bullock) breed in riparian and open woodlands and favor areas where the trees are large and spaced well apart or in isolated clumps. They often nest in sycamores, cottonwoods, willows, and deciduous oaks. They eat insects and other arthropods, as well as fruit and nectar. They glean insects from leaves, branches and trunks; they also pluck insects from spider webs or from the air, and take ripe fruit from bushes and trees.

Bullock’s Orioles use a method called “gaping” to extract juice from fruit, and also sometimes from tough-skinned caterpillars. Thrusting their closed bills through the skin and into the flesh of the fruit or animal, they then pry their bills open inside and lap up the pooling juices with their brushy tongues.

The female weaves the nest, but the male may assist, with one partner working on the inside and other outside, bringing nest material. The project can take up to 15 days to complete. The nest hangs from a branch like a sack and is neatly woven from fibers such as hair, twine, grasses, or wool. It’s lined with soft materials such as feathers or the “cotton” from cottonwoods or willows. Three to seven bluish eggs are incubated for 11 days and the chicks fledge in 14 days.

This oriole was named after William Bullock, an English amateur naturalist, in 1827. A group of orioles are collectively known as a “pitch” or a “split” of orioles.

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