Prairie Tayles: For the price of a jar of jelly

Jun 16, 2017

Credit Wikipedia

Social media users, join local photography sites to see what’s going on around the state. You won’t be sorry. Right now, a slew of oriole pictures: Baltimore, Bullock, and orchard,  fill scroll bars daily. Based on what I’m seeing, these pretty birds are everywhere. I love the captures of these saucy black and orange birds and reading photographers’ posts.

If you aren’t a birder or someone who loves one, you may not have a clue about these colorful birds other than noticing a streak of orange and black flit through nearby trees. In addition to their eye-catching plumage, they’re known for building quaint nests that look like little brown bags. These are harder to see when trees leaf out, but once foliage drops in the fall, you’ll note them dangling from bare branches. As a child, I love spotting an oriole nest and imagining what it would be like to begin life swayed by Kansas breezes.

These distinctly marked creatures migrate to Kansas each year to feast on insect, nectar, and fruit as well as raise another brood to adulthood. One of the reasons the photographers and birders fill sites with these creatures’ likenesses is that early summer is peak nesting time. They’ve completed long journeys from as far away as South America, and now they’re ready to weave clever nurseries for their young.

The Baltimore sub-species is the most brightly colored with the male’s deep orange contrasting sharply against black feathers. The Bullock tends to a more yellow hue, and the orchard is a russet that camouflages more easily than its more vivid kin. Based on online pictures, these are common Kansas visitors. Southern states herald even more varieties for birdwatchers to add to life lists.

Lovely to look at, orioles sing beautifully as well. Due to their attractiveness and their bright songs, many intentionally attract these birds. Nailing or propping half an orange in a nearby tree lures them into camera range. They’re also fond of grape jelly served in a fancy feeder or a jar lid nailed to a board. Based on birder’s anecdotes, these feathered friends keep fans running to the store to buy more sweet stuff. One oriole lover in Eastern Kansas reported his local Aldi’s ran out of grape jelly. Once the store received a new shipment, jars flew off shelves.

Buying grape jelly is one thing, but sacrificing fresh fruit to this creature is another. A friend who has a small orchard isn’t nearly as fond of orioles as those putting pictures online. He’s battled aptly named orchard orioles for several years as they peck damaging holes in his just ripening peaches. I confess that would frustrate me as well. Their pretty coloration and their lilting songs wouldn’t make up for a ruined harvest.

So like all things on our blue planet. Orioles are good and bad. Enjoy their coloring and their song, yet protect fruit trees from their voracious appetites. For enjoyment, sign up for photo pages to enjoy their visits in other people’s yards.