Jelly-eaters

Just recently avian parents have started bringing their newly fledged offspring to the bird feeders to show them where to get a free meal.  I heard Baltimore Orioles vocalizing in the oak trees in the backyard, so I quickly added some grape jelly to the hummingbird feeder.  Within a few minutes, the whole oriole family visited, and continued to visit for the next couple of days.

Molting male Baltimore Oriole eating grape jelly

See, this is how you do it, kids.”  I think this might be first year male Baltimore Oriole that is molting its black head feathers.  Sometimes, even first-year males can attract a mate and raise a family.

Baltimore Oriole eating grape jelly

It’s slippery and sweet and slides right down.

Juvenile Baltimore Oriole in a Buckeye tree

A juvenile Baltimore Oriole watches how to eat jelly from the nearby Buckeye tree.  I thought this was a funny-looking Goldfinch until I heard the Orioles vocalizing to each other.

Juvenile Baltimore Orioles at grape jelly feeder

These juvenile orioles are pale in comparison to their parents. They lack the typical yellow belly, and their head feathers are mostly brown. It takes two full years for the male Baltimore Oriole to show his typical breeding plumage.

There's enough to everyone to share.

There’s enough for everyone to share.

Juvenile Baltimore Oriole eating grape jelly

Why grape jelly and not strawberry or blueberry flavors?

Unlike many fruit-eaters, Orioles prefer only the ripest, purple-est fruits, like mulberries, dark red cheeries, and of course, grapes.  I wonder about the blueberry flavor though, because a lot of the ripe blueberries are suddenly missing from my bushes.

Oriole parents feed their chicks insects, but switch their diet to the high energy sugar contents of ripe fruits in the fall in order to put on fat for migration.  It seems a little early for that — we barely have gotten into summer weather here. But the biological clock never lies, and preparation is the key to survival.

8 thoughts on “Jelly-eaters

  1. Nice shots! When I see a juvenile Oriole, I wait around for a parent show up, then I get a positive ID. We have Orchard and Baltimore Orioles nesting here, and those little ones look very similar when they are hiding in the leaves. It would be nice if I could convince them to stop at my Hummingbird feeder!

    • I think we must be north of the Orchard Oriole breeding range. They have been spotted in western MN, but i haven’t seen them in the backyard yet. But I see what you mean about the juvies of the two species — they do look a lot alike.

      In the spring, the orioles loved the hummingbird sugar mix in the feeder, but this summer they seem to be ignoring the sugar water and gobbling up the jelly.

  2. I used to love seeing their hanging basket nests in the old elm trees here. Once Dutch elm disease took the elms the orioles left and I don’t know if they ever came back. I’ve never seen a single photo of an oriole nest on a blog in the 3 years I’ve been reading them.

  3. What a cool idea, Sue, and some wonderful shots. Whenever I see grape jelly, I immediately want peanut butter too, but I suspect the orioles wouldn’t like that combination.

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