Mr. Neil has had an increase in oriole activity recently. It’s typical to get a lull in oriole activity at a jelly feeder once migration is finished. Orioles appear to focus more on insects while raising their young. Once the chicks fledge, you get a second bump in oriole activity in mid summer as the adults teach the young how to feed at jelly and nectar feeders. I was out taking photos and saw a few young orioles like the one above at the recycled oriole feeder. This bird was feeding without the family group and appeared to be doing well at the jelly feeder…
That is, until an adult male showed up and chased the recently fledged oriole off the jelly. That’s the way it goes in the bird world, older more experienced birds push around the younger ones. This young oriole must not have been from this male’s family group.
The male Baltimore oriole gathered globs of grape jelly. I heard a young bird begging in the nearby trees. The male flew up, the begging calls stopped. I couldn’t see them, but I could tell that the male must have been feeding a young bird. He flew back down to gather more jelly. I was puzzled because the begging calls did not sound like a young oriole. I spent two years volunteering in the avian nursery of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and one thing that stuck was the sound of baby birds. I never paid attention to those calls before, but now I’m pretty good at picking out eastern species begging calls. Begging orioles have a breathy, descending “eeep, eeep, eeep, eeep” sound. This wasn’t it. As the male oriole grabbed more jelly, the young begging bird flew to the feeder pole and the male flew up to feed it.
Doh! No wonder it didn’t sound like a young oriole…it’s a young cowbird begging for food. Oh, oriole, I expected more from you. And great, just what we need, cowbirds learning to feed at jelly feeders. Even though the young cowbird at what it was fed by the oriole, I watched it watch the birds at the seed feeders. When the male oriole flew away, the young cowbird flew over to the seed feeders and tried eating some of that instead of going to the jelly feeder. Perhaps jelly does not taste good to cowbirds? This is not the first oriole to raise a cowbird, so if jelly were a good food item to them, we would see more cowbirds on jelly feeders and I just don’t see that very much.
Eventually, the young oriole flew back to the jelly feeder and resumed it’s feeding: