I have written about the winter finches and winter hummingbirds that may begin to show up at areas feeders at this time of year, and so far some of these species are starting to appear. But there are other birds to start looking for, too. The early cold snaps we have been experiencing can potentially bring some welcome additions to your usual feeder patrons.
I have already received one report of a Baltimore oriole at an area feeder.
Baltimore orioles should be fairly easy to identify as orioles. The adult males are unmistakable, with their striking pattern of black and bright orange.
The females and immature birds are not quite as striking, but they all have varying amounts of orange or yellowish orange in their plumage. They are also fairly large birds, making them easier to notice. They will have two noticeable white wing bars and a long, thin bill.
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There are other types of orioles that may show up, too. A couple of Bullock’s orioles (a Western species) have been recorded.
Orioles have a varied preference for food. They seem to have individual tastes. I have seen them take suet and suet dough offerings, sunflower chips, peanuts and fruit. They also are partial to orange slices and grape jelly. If you have an active feeding operation, consider trying to attract orioles.
Western tanagers are also a possibility, though their occurrence is quite rare here, with only a handful of winter records from Mecklenburg County. Like orioles, the males are unmistakable, with a striking pattern of black and yellow, and maybe a hint of red on the face.
Females and immature western tanagers are not as easy to identify, often being greenish overall. Some birds are brighter and more colorful than others, sometimes showing an overall greenish-yellow cast. There will be two wing bars, one yellow and one whitish. They are chunkier and smaller than orioles with a thicker bill. They will come for the same foods that orioles prefer.
As always, if you see some of these unusual visitors, try to get a photo and send it to me.
For more photos and a brief discussion of identifying features, check out my blog.