|A female hooded oriole in Mission Viejo on 4/2/2020. Photo by J.J. Meyer|
Local birders have reported sightings of migrant orioles for several weeks. These striking songbirds return to breed in Southern California during the spring and summer.
Hooded and Bullock’s orioles are the two most common species of orioles found in Orange County, although there have been rare sightings of Scott’s and orchard orioles in previous years.
Orioles are medium-sized songbirds, about 8-inches long with slender bodies and long legs and tails. They are coveted among backyard birders mostly because of their bright colors. Both hooded and Bullock's orioles are sexually dimorphic, with males being more brightly colored than females.
Hooded orioles are named for the orange hood of the male’s breeding plumage. Males have an orange or orange-yellow head, nape, rump and underparts with a distinctive black bib and narrow mask. The tail is black. And wings are black with with two white wingbars. Females are mostly olive yellow with dusky gray wings and white wingbars. Hooded orioles have long, slightly curved bills.
Adult male Bullock’s are flame-orange with a neat line through the eye and a white wing patch; females are washed in gray and orange. They have straight, pointed bills.
Manufacturers tend to make oriole feeders orange, because the birds are attracted to the color. Nectar feeders made especially for orioles can better accommodate the larger birds by providing longer perches and bigger feeding ports than are typically seen on hummingbird feeders. Orioles also have an affinity for fruit and even grape jelly.
It’s also possible to attract orioles by planting native shrubs with berries or flowering plants that invite caterpillars, one of their favorite foods. And encourage nesting by delaying trimming dead palm fronds until fall.