Another dinner guest

Baltimore Orioles also seem to be quite fond of buckeye flower nectar.  At least two males (differing in the amount of black on their heads) and two females (differing in their orange-ness, which is a sign of their age) have been constant visitors to the buckeye tree for the past few days.

This male thoroughly examined one raceme of flowers for several minutes, allowing me to take photos from about 20 feet away.

This male thoroughly examined one raceme of flowers for several minutes, allowing me to take photos from about 20 feet away.  (Specks in these photos are not dirt, but rain drops.)

Like the Tennessee Warblers, they contort their body around or hang from the flowers heads to probe every flower for the nectar at its base.

baltimore oriole feeding on buckeye flower nectar

baltimore oriole feeding on buckeye flower nectar

Zooming in a little closer I could see the oriole probe the flower parallel to its axis to reach the nectar.

The viscous nectar sits at the base of the flower right above the stalk that connects it to the stem of the raceme.

The viscous drop of nectar sits at the base of the flower right above the stalk that connects it to the stem of the raceme.  Orioles use the brush-like tip of their tongue to mop up the nectar.

But occasionally the oriole used a different technique and inserted its slightly open bill perpendicular to the flower right above the nectar pool.

This is called "gaping".

This is called “gaping”.  It is a different method of achieving the same result, allowing a puddle of syrupy nectar to pool into the open mouth or get lapped up with the tongue. 

Orioles eat a variety of foods, but prefer fruits and nectar in the spring and fall, when the demand for quick energy and rapid fat storage is high.  More insects and spiders are eaten during the summer when they are raising young or molting new feathers.

baltimore oriole

It was a cold, rainy day, and this guy looks a little bedraggled from getting wet.  I think the brown specks on his face are the anthers of the buckeye flowers.  Orioles are probably not a desirable pollinator for these flowers, if they break off entire pollen-bearing structures.  Usually there is a swarm of bees and wasps on this tree, but it’s too cold for that today.

4 thoughts on “Another dinner guest

  1. Pingback: “Orange” you pretty! | Back Yard Biology

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