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Pagosa Springs
Friday, September 29, 2023

Bird of the Week

Photo courtesy Barry Knott

This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the Bullock’s oriole.

The colorful birds which we know as orioles are part of the diverse family of birds known as icterids. This group also includes many species of blackbirds and the meadowlarks.

A physical adaptation in the skull, shared by members of this family, allows these birds to feed in a method called gaping. Strong muscles allow the bird to use its thick, pointed bill to pierce the tough skin of a fruit or insect. Forcing its bill open once inside allows the bird to tap the nectar or soft organs within.

Among the icterids that we see here, the male Bullock’s oriole with his tropical orange coloring is a standout. His orange is accented by a black head, eye stripe, throat and back, and large white wing patches. The female is colored a duller yellow with a gray back and wings. Both sexes are vocal and produce an array of sweetly whistled notes and harsh chatter.

Many of us have been surprised to look out and find a Bullock’s oriole balanced on the hummingbird feeder. They do not come to seed feeders but are attracted to grape jelly syrup, sugar nectar and orange halves. In trees, they search for insects, which they glean from leaves, branches and trunks.

Another standout characteristic of these birds is their nest-building prowess. The female weaves a gourd-shaped nest of plant fibers and grass measuring 4-14 inches deep and suspended from the ends of a flexible branch. The inside is lined with soft materials like wool, grass or fur. Nest construction may take up to 15 days to complete.

Hidden by foliage in summer, nests are visible when deciduous trees shed their leaves in fall. Look for them in the cottonwoods along the river, especially in the large trees south of Yamaguchi Park.

For information on events, visit wBird of the Weekww.weminucheaudubon.org and www.facebook.com/weminucheaudubon/.

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