Oriole Oriole
Today's News Report Your Sightings How to Use Journey North Search Journey North

FINAL Oriole Migration Update: May 18, 2000

Orioles Keep Coming!
With more than 100 new sightings, orioles are still on their way to the full extent of their breeding range, but the migration is nearly complete. Some oriole watchers are still patiently waiting, but they'll soon be rewarded. Reports like the following are proof!

On May 16, this happy news came from Alberta, Canada: "The first Baltimores were seen in Calgary today!" (potoo@home.com)

The orioles arrived a bit earlier in Pennsylvania, but Margaret and Bruce Launius were expecting them: "Our first Baltimore Oriole arrived today (5/06/00). We have kept records for a number of years and today's oriole appearance is right on schedule. We are 5 miles north of Mansfield, PA--halfway between Mansfield and Roseville."

An oriole watcher in Baileys Harbor, WI said: "The orioles are eating the neighbors and me out of house and home. Great fun to watch them."

Wehr Nature Center in Franklin, WI (44.196 N, -87.856 W) reports terrific oriole sightings. Dan Spuhler wrote: "We have had spectacular viewing of well over 18 orioles this morning, including 2 males in a territorial battle that nearly took my hat off. Territorial and pairing squabbles are still going on here, albeit less frequently and not as heated. Many of the orioles have moved on; however we still had 29 at the nature center on Saturday, May 13. A female oriole was observed collecting nesting material in a sedge meadow amidst red-osier dogwood. Oriole territories do not appear to be very large, or very closely guarded, probably because of the abundant habitat available in the area. Orioles have also been observed in the area bullying hummingbirds off of hummingbird feeders." (daniel.spuhler@ces.uwex.edu)

April 20

May 4

May 18

If you live north of Franklin, WI, maybe some of the orioles who moved onward have reached your backyard!

Analyzing the Spring 2000 Oriole Migration
With the arrival of 137 oriole sightings since our last report, you are probably wondering when this migration will peak! That's a good question! To help you answer it, we've compiled all the sightings on one page. Jump in and see what what fascinating things can be learned from the data! We'll guide you through the steps to answer:

When did the oriole migration peak this spring?

Compare Last Year and This Year
How does the oriole migration of Spring, 1999 compare with the migration of Spring, 2000? A glance at the maps tells the story.

Spring, 1999

Spring, 2000

Here's how to compare the two migrations:

1. Compare the 1999 and 2000 maps.

2. What differences do you notice?

3. Give a verbal description of the Spring, 2000 migration, such as:

  • The spring, 2000 migration appears to be (ahead/behind) of the Spring, 1999 migration.
  • For example, you can see this by describing how far north the sightings were during a particular week in 1999 compared to the same week in 2000, (i.e." during the week of April 24-30 in 1999, the farthest north the orioles were seen was______, but in that same week in 2000 the orioles had been seen as far north as______)

4. Summarize your observations and draw conclusions.


Scientist Says: Communicating Research Results
One of the most important steps in a scientist's work is sharing research results with other scientists. This is how the body of scientific knowledge is built--and how it constantly changes, as new research findings replace the old.

As a way to sum up and show your learning this spring, write your own scientific paper based on the Oriole migration that's just finishing. Journey North offers this lesson to guide students through the steps of writing a real scientific paper:

Thank You, Dr. Aborn: Final Weather Report
Contributed by Dr. David Aborn

Journey North sends a gigantic THANKS to David Aborn, whose expertise and generous sharing added so much to our study of oriole migration. Dr. Aborn also served as our Oriole Expert, and we are grateful for his time and expertise. Here's his final report for the spring:

Dr. Aborn's Weather Report : May 18, 2000

Dear Students:
"For some of you (myself included) migration is ending, but for others it is getting exciting. Saturday (5/13) was International Migratory Bird Day, and I participated in the National migratory Bird Count. Numbers were down from past years, partly because there haven't been any cold fronts recently to force the birds to land."

David's letter says that he has probably seen the last of the migrants around his area until the fall. But thanks to a pair of cold fronts moving through the Rockies and Great Plains, some migrants will be forced down where they can be seen. Does that mean YOU? David writes:

"The plains states, midwest, and mid-Atlantic states, on the other hand, should have another couple of good birding days by week's end. You folks should keep looking at the weather maps for another couple of weeks, as any cold fronts will bring migrants with them. Students in New England, Canada, and Alaska will see migration into June. Before you know it, it will be time to look for fall migration!"

David ends his letter with this message for Journey North readers:

"I hope you have learned some things about the wonders of migration and how complex it is. However, you don't have to wait for migration to enjoy birds. I hope you will get out and do some bird watching this summer; It can be very interesting to watch the behavior of species like mockingbirds and blue jays. Have a safe and enjoyable summer!"

Take Care,

There's more, so read David's full report at:

Now, follow the weather maps--and keep your eyes on the skies so you know what to expect!

Milkweed's Not Just for Monarchs

If you think milkweed is just for monarchs, this sighting will make you think again! Marcy Cunkelman, who lives near Clarksburg, PA, wrote:

"The Baltimore oriole numbers are increasing daily. I saw 3 chasing each other through the yard. Mama was peeling the milkweed for strips of fibers for the nest."

Check out the photo to see what milkweed fiber looks like. You can see how it would be good nest building material. Keep your eyes open to milkweed in your own neighborhood and spread the news about how it helps both monarchs AND orioles!

Oriole "Bed and Breakfast"

Marcy told us a lot more fun stuff about the busy orioles:

"I also was watching several female Baltimore orioles pulling the 'strings' on my yucca plant. The male follows her and sits nearby while she does all the work of pulling the 'strings'. Take a close look at the yucca plant and you will see the leaves have little strings that pull off with a little bit of tugging. The milkweed plant is the same if you peel the sides of the dried plant. This is why I never totally clear the gardens, since many of the birds like to use the grasses, herbs and etc. for nesting material. The bark of the grapevine is great, too, for the orioles and the catbird. I made a handle for my flowerpot using a grapevine and the catbird was the first to strip the bark. The orioles got into the act after it was loose and hanging down.

"I also put out pieces of string and it seems their favorite is baler twine that I got off of some bird seed sacks. If you untwist baler twine, there are many individual pieces of string. These feel coarse and wirey, very much like horse hair. The orioles all like to use the baler's twine. Since there aren't as many horses around as in the past, this seems to be a good substitute.

"They are also busy eating the grape jelly I put out-on the ramp, under a covered platform feeder and on the suet log on the top-right outside the new window. I am on the 3rd big jar of grape jelly since April 25th. The first oriole showed up on the 27th and went straight to the feeder I made last year. I think the bird was here last year. I have 3 trays of grape jelly I put out and offer nesting material nearby--'Bed and Breakfast.' I can say there are at least 12 to 15 orioles here, including a pair of orchard orioles, flying, eating, singing and chasing each other through the yard. I love those flashes of orange."

By the way-- you may want to "pass the jelly" to your own orioles. For tips, see:

Get Set for Summer Observations
This is our FINAL oriole migration update this spring, but the fun of oriole watching is just beginning. As orioles settle into their nesting routines, many of you will be settling into summer vacation routines. You might want to follow around your neighborhood orioles to see what you can see!

To find oriole nests, listen to their songs and then follow their movements. Orioles prefer nesting in large shade trees. Their nests may be in very high branches, but are usually on the outer twigs, so it's sometimes possible to watch them. (Use your binoculars and watch from a distance so you don't "tip off" any oriole predators.) Print off your own list of things you might look for:

And don't forget to learn the songs of the orioles that breed in your geographic area:

Answers From the Oriole Expert
A hearty thanks to David Aborn for providing his time and expertise in responding to your questions! See what you can learn from his reply:

A Swift Trip: Response to Challenge Question #12
Last time we asked, "Why do you think orioles push northward during a single week in late April or early May, while hummingbirds gradually move northward for 8-10 weeks from March to mid-May?"

Hummingbirds eat a wide variety of tiny flying insects swarming about the tips of newly budding branches, and they also feed on the sap from sapsucker borings. So even if the weather is unpredictable, they can count on plenty of food when they first arrive. Orioles require much larger insects, such as caterpillars, which don't hatch until buds emerge. So orioles must wait until leaf-out. By then, their hormones are urging them forward so they can set up their territories and start nesting, so they move north FAST!

Spring Into Summer!
With the tips in this report, we hope you'll enjoy "springing into summer" with the neotropical migrants who journeyed north to your yards and parks. And we hope you'll join us again next spring to celebrate the mysteries and marvels of songbird migration!

  • Also, we know this is a busy time of year, yet we hope you will take a few minutes to respond to our Year-end Evaluation:

Journey North
Year End Evaluation
Please share your thoughts

This is the FINAL Oriole Migration Update for Spring 2000.

Copyright 2000 Journey North. All Rights Reserved. Please send all questions, comments, and suggestions to our feedback form

Today's News Today's News Report Your Sightings How to Use Journey North Search Journey North