Build an Oriole's Nest!
Imagine you are an oriole. You can make a nest for yourself if you follow the instructions below. It's a lot of work! Fortunately, after your babies fledge, you're all done needing a crib for a whole year. Next year when you build another nest, pieces of this one might still be hanging in the same spot. Then you can tear them apart to use the best fibers all over again. Remember: Reduce, reuse, and recycle!
1. Find a suitable building site
A. Locate a good branch in the right habitat. A tree along a lake or stream, or on the edge of a woods is perfect, but you can pick a suburban area or a park if there are lots of shade trees and a source of water nearby. You want your nest high up near the tip of a limb, where the branch is too slim to support squirrels and crows, so you have to pick a tree that has long, strong, narrow twigs. The American elm is the very best choice, but there aren't as many of those as there used to be. Silver maple, apple, sycamore, cottonwood, willow, birch, and other species work, too.
B. The nest is usually near the outside of the tree, but in the Great Plains, where the wind is often very strong and there are fewer squirrels, the nest is often nearer the trunk. Usually oriole nests are fairly high. They average more than 10 meters high, but there's at least one record of a nest only 1.2 meters high. Some orioles prefer to build their nest on the leeward side of a tree (out of the wind), but some orioles don't seem to care which side the nest is on.
C. Wherever you build your oriole nest, pick a sturdy branch. You don't want it to fall or blow off! Remember, you and your eggs and babies will be stuck deep inside your purse-shaped nest for the next 5 weeks, so be careful to pick a spot that's safe, cool, and comfortable. Your nest is going to dangle from the branch, so we sure hope you don't get motion sickness!
2. Gather Materials
A. Long fibers. This includes grasses, hairs from horse tails and other long animal fibers, string, yarn, thread, or thin twigs.
B Springy fibers. Milkweed stems and grapevine bark are examples.
C. Soft, downy fibers.
A. You will
carry one fiber at a time to the nest. Hang onto the nest twig with
your feet as you wind the first long strand around the twig loosely
with one or more turns. Bring the next fiber to the branch and wind
it around the twig weaving it around the first fiber. Keep adding fibers
and weave and tie knots in them until in 2 or 3 days you have a tangled
mass of fibers hanging from three or four places on the twig. This
snarl of fibers will become one side of the nest.
Enjoy Your Orioles!
Print a copy of our field checklist to keep track of, assist, and enjoy the orioles in your neighborhood! See:
Try This! Journaling Questions