For birders like me that keep track of such things, it is an exciting event when a new species is found nesting within the boundaries of the county. Over the past three years, a few species have indeed been added to the Mecklenburg County nesting list. The latest has come to light just this past week: the Baltimore oriole.
A pair of these handsome birds apparently was able to fledge three youngsters out of a nest in a sycamore in the Highland Creek neighborhood. Though there has been documentation of at least attempted nesting by the species in Cabarrus County just a few miles away, Baltimore orioles have never been found in a nest here. I find it particularly exciting because it means the biodiversity of the county is still increasing despite widespread habitat loss.
Fortunate feeder watchers in the winter may have some Baltimore orioles visit during those months, and migration watchers can usually locate some as they pass through in the early part of May.
The males are especially striking, with flame-orange plumage set off by jet black head and wings with white bars. Females are less brilliant but can be very colorful, too. I am always glad to see one of these birds in any plumage.
We have a cousin to the Baltimore oriole that is an uncommon breeder within the county: the orchard oriole. The plumage pattern is similar, but the bright orange of the Baltimore male is replaced by a more muted chestnut color in the orchard male. It’s still an attractive bird, and I am always glad to see one of these in the county, too.
Both species like open or semi-open habitats with some taller trees to sing and nest in. A small pond, lake or river is especially attractive to them. Hopefully, the success of their nesting will induce this pair to return next year to the same area.
So this week, we can tally a net gain in county biodiversity, but coming years may give a net loss. Next week, I will tell you about some current breeders that are fast disappearing.
Taylor Piephoff is a local naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont: PiephoffT@aol.com.
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