About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

What a female oriole looks like

Photo by Pam Gors - Female Baltimore Oriole showing her brood patch
Baltimore Orioles will soon be arriving in Michigan. The striking black and orange plumage of the male makes them easy to detect but what about the female? Typically, the female is a less colorful blend of orangey yellow and grayish black. Interestingly, the male Baltimore Oriole only obtains his striking plumage in his second year.

Photo by Pam Gors
So first-year males can look very similar to females. Or should I say some females can look like first-year males? This was the dilemma I had last summer. A bird that looked like a first-year male but didn’t act like it. My dominant male was fine with this bird eating out of the feeder near him and even flying to the same tree. Normally, he would chase out any other males in his territory.

Comparing pictures of the bird with the field guides to determine gender were inconclusive. It wasn’t until I was able to get a picture of the brood patch that I could confirm this was a female. The brood patch is a bald area of the abdomen that develops when the female is incubating the eggs. It allows the body heat exchange from the mother to the eggs to keep them warm. Since the male doesn’t take a turn incubating, he doesn’t develop a brood patch. Be sure to watch the social interactions of your birds! It’s fascinating what you can learn from the way they interact.

Photos and story by Pam Gors
Wild Birds Unlimited of Macomb #454
20241 Hall Road
Macomb, MI 48044
(586) 229-2798

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