I’ve seen other unusual birds lately, seasonal visitors and migrants. The white wing doves swept in overnight and suddenly a colony of them are mixing it up with the locals. A lesser goldfinch discovered my sunflowers. He picked vigorously through the flowers, dangling upside down and devouring the buds.
But a hooded oriole! His stabbing beak is like a tiny sword, gleaning insects from treetops and from the ground. He delights in ripe fruit, and sips nectar from blooms along his way. This oriole ignores my presence and continues to work methodically among the branches, plucking insects right and left, and making a chattering call.
In the wild, hooded orioles are found in open woods, or riparian areas. The birds thrive in urban habitats as well, in city parks or patches of suburban palms, much favored for nesting sites. The female hooded oriole is drabber in color than the male, but she has special talents. She weaves an extraordinary hanging pouch, with the entrance hole in the top. She stitches through sturdy leaves or palm fronds with her sharp beak, and in the shade underneath, suspends her 4 inch nest of grasses, fronds and fibers.
Hooded orioles arrive in the Southwest from Mexico in spring and will stay til September, courting, nesting and raising their young. The female lays three to five bluish grey eggs, and if the pair is fortunate they will not suffer a cowbird attack. Invasive cowbirds employ a nasty trick of laying eggs in orioles’ nests, where their assertive nestlings prevail over the oriole young for food brought to the nest by the original parents.
According to a recent article in National Wildlife Federation’s magazine, the nation’s cities and suburbs that are home to 82 % of our human population are also home to two thirds of all North American wildlife species. This includes birds such as the hooded oriole that are finding that with natural areas affected by habitat destruction and dropping water tables, native plantings in urban areas can provide a suitable substitute.