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Birder spies rare sight: Bullock's oriole on a hummingbird feeder

I viewed a Bullock's oriole on my hummingbird feeder last evening ... how exciting! I've lived in Oregon since 1945, but this is my first time to see one of these beautiful birds. I identified the oriole by Internet. Are they migrating?

— Veda L., Central Point

Way to go, Veda. The male Bullock's is always an exciting bird to see, with his brilliant orange body, black cap (and black throat and eye-line) and flashy white wing spot. The female is a bit drab by comparison, with a mostly gray body and a yellowish face, breast and tail.

The Bullock's is a bird of the western United States, while its cousin, the Baltimore oriole, is an eastern bird. There is some hybridization where the ranges overlap.

In Southern Oregon, the Bullock's begin showing up in early April, and their numbers increase until they are common by early May, especially near creeks and rivers, in mixed woodlands and even in parks. The birds winter from central Mexico to northern South America. The one you saw probably completed spring migration earlier and may be nesting here.

Bullock's are famous for building lovely, ingenious, hanging nests woven of plant fiber, grass, hair and even plastic litter. Most Bullock's will be gone again by August.

They have a sweet tooth, and it's not uncommon for them to check out your hummer feeders. They will drink hummingbird nectar (four parts water, one part sugar) but need a feeder with bigger ports and longer perches. They'll come to petunias, honeysuckle and bleeding hearts in your garden. They're fond of fresh slices of oranges, apples, peaches and bananas, and they love grape jelly and orange marmalade.

Happy oriole-watching.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.