If the truth were known, the orchard oriole is far more common around Georgia backyards than most people think.
I believe three of the reasons for this are that this colorful, small oriole rarely makes an appearance at bird feeders, most people are not familiar with its song, and finally, far too many folks do not maintain a birdbath.
My wife and I are fortunate that orchard orioles annually make their spring and summer home in our backyard. In fact, throughout the spring the song of the orchard oriole can be heard throughout the entire day. Consequently, when we hear the birds singing, we focus our attention on the trees or shrubs where the calls are coming from. Often we are rewarded with seeing one of the birds suddenly burst from the foliage and fly across the yard.
One of the best ways to learn the song is by listening to it on one of the many online sites that allow you to listen to recordings of the various birdcalls.
Some say that they are able to catch a glimpse of orchard orioles visiting their hummingbird feeders. We have never been that lucky. If you want to try it, here is a suggestion that may work. Hang up a hummingbird feeder that is equipped with large feeding portals.
The reason I mention this is last winter a Baltimore oriole fed at a hummingbird feeder that has large feeding portals. When I replaced it with a feeder with normal-sized feeding portals, the bird would not use it; obliviously they were too small. Perhaps this approach will work with orchard orioles too.
By far, we get our best views of orchard orioles at our birdbaths. Orchard orioles visit these watering holes daily. With that in mind, keep your birdbaths full of fresh, clean water.
If orioles are not regularly using your birdbaths, it may be because they are too deep. Orchard orioles are not large birds. As such, they will not wade out into water a couple of inches deep. Ideally, a birdbath should have a gently sloping bottom that provides birds of all sizes with ideal bathing conditions.
If you are successful in catching a glimpse of an orchard oriole or two using one of these tips, please let me know.
Although the birds in my yard visit my birdbaths on a regular basis throughout the entire year, activity around these artificial ponds has definitely increased as of late. For example, in a little over an hour one afternoon this week I watched, a northern mockingbird, common grackles, American robins, brown thrashers, and orchard orioles visited the birdbath outside my home office.
While a couple of the birds that showed up drank, most were intent solely on bathing. If you have never seen wild birds bathe, you have missed a real treat.
Each bird would hop into the deepest water (only about two inches deep) and began rapidly flapping its wings. I suspect they also shook their bodies, but I cannot say for sure that was the case. What I do know is that while bathing, each bird had water flying everywhere. They would then suddenly stop, look around and repeat the process several times. Finally, when they finished they laboriously flew to nearby trees and shrubs on water-soaked wings to shake off the water and preen.
When the last bather left, the birdbath was almost empty and the ground within a three to four foot circle around the bath was soaking wet.
Their departure left me with the task of refilling the birdbath, and fond memories of what I had witnessed.
Most of Georgia is suffering through drought conditions. For example, in my neck of the woods, not a drop of rain has fallen on my yard during the past 42 days. When it is this dry, our backyard birds and other wildlife need water to bathe and drink more than ever before.
With this in mind, if you want to do something that will be a tremendous benefit your bird neighbors, and provide you with excellent bird watching opportunities, keep that birdbath that has been bone dry most of the summer full of fresh, clean water.
If you do not have a birdbath, buy one. The best birdbaths are shallow (one to one and half-inches deep).
If you don’t want to go to the expense of buying a birdbath, common items such as trashcan lids, pie and cookie pans, and plant saucers, can be used as substitutes.
It is always a good idea to place a birdbath fifteen or more feet from a shrub or other cover, as this will reduce the chances that hungry predators will capture the birds drawn to your backyard oasis.
It is important to keep a birdbaths clean. Often birds foul the water by leaving behind feathers and droppings. In addition, algae often grow in a birdbath when the water is not regularly changed. This poses a health risk to the birds. With that in mind, periodically clean your birdbath with a stiff brush and weak bleach and water solution (one part bleach to ten parts water). After cleaning the birdbath, thoroughly rinse it out before refilling.
With weather conditions this arid, once you fill up a birdbath, it should not take long before the first of what will prove to be a steady stream of birds will begin arriving. These visitors will include cardinals, tufted titmice, Carolina chickadees, brown thrashers, chipping sparrows, eastern towhees, eastern bluebirds, northern flickers, brown-headed nuthatches, and many others.
During the past few weeks, my wife and I have been amazed how many and often birds have used our four birdbaths. I have seen up to six species of birds bathing and drinking at the same time.
Right now, beyond a shadow of a doubt, creating a backyard oasis is arguably the single most important thing that you can do for your bird neighbors.
Although pedestal birdbaths are great devices to provide birds with water, they can be dangerous to cats, dogs and humans alike. All to often when a cat or dog tries to drink from one, or a curious child grabs the edge of the heavy cement basin, it comes toppling down.
When our two family cats knocked the basin off its pedestal several times in a single month, I began searching for a solution to this problem. I decided that I could either sit the basin directly on the ground or mount it atop something more stable than a heavy, slender column.
I decided to place the cement birdbath atop an old planter. The wide top and base of the planter proved to be far more stable than the pedestal.
Since I have discarded the cement pedestal in favor of a planter, our cats have not knocked it off the perch a single time, in spite of the fact that they seem to drink water from the birdbath on a daily basis.
If you currently use a pedestal birdbath in your backyard and want to reduce the chance of injury to your pets, children or grandchildren, give it a try.