SC reports largest number of wintering orioles for sixth year in a row

The article below was written and distributed by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR). Click here to subscribe to updates from SCDNR.

An adult male and an immature Baltimore oriole look as if they’re talking about a sweet treat from a feeder in North Charleston. (Photo by David Ramage)

South Carolina’s 2020 Baltimore Oriole Winter Survey reported the largest number of orioles wintering in the United States for the sixth year in a row.

Those results were recorded during the sixth annual Baltimore Oriole Winter Survey, conducted by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) Feb. 14-17, 2020.

SCDNR’s survey was held in conjunction with the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). Tapping into this long standing citizen-science project allowed SCDNR to get a better picture of the status and distribution of this beautiful songbird wintering in the Palmetto State.

Survey participants in South Carolina submitted 88 reports and recorded 401 orioles. The number of reports was South Carolina’s highest number to date, and the number of orioles recorded was the third highest to date. The number of participants this year was South Carolina’s highest number to date, and 60% of those were new to the survey.

Weather this year was a little more seasonable than in recent years. A weather system moved through the state during the survey period, and likely caused oriole activity to increase at the feeders.

Participants counted and reported the largest number of orioles they could see at one time, on one, two, three or all four days of the survey period. When possible, the age and sex of the orioles were recorded as well. Participants were also encouraged to report the absence of orioles, when they have had them in past winters and the largest number they have seen at one time so far, during the winter months, (December, January and February). Reporting the absence of orioles is just as important to the survey as the number of orioles seen.

This year, orioles were reported from 14 of the 22 South Carolina counties that have been reported to date. Two counties, Anderson and Greenwood, had a report for the first time during the survey. Orioles ranged from the Midlands and throughout the coastal plain, from North Myrtle Beach to Hilton Head. Charleston County had the most reports and recorded the largest number of orioles, reporting 38% of the total number of orioles in the state. Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties were the top reporting counties for participants and orioles seen. This tri-county area made up 68% of the reports and 67% of orioles seen.

According to the GBBC and the SCDNR survey, a total of 302 reports and 976 orioles were recorded this year in the United States. South Carolina had the second largest number of reports in the United States and the largest number of orioles seen. Orioles were reported from New Hampshire to Florida and along the Gulf coast to Texas. There was also a report of an oriole in Newfoundland this year. Coastal states, from Virginia to Florida, had 95% of the total number of reports and 98% of the total orioles seen.

Baltimore orioles are neotropical migrants, normally wintering in South and Central America and migrating to North America to nest. During the last several decades, however, this species has begun wintering annually in the Southeast. Though scientists are not sure why these birds have begun overwintering in growing numbers, the birds respond well to the popularity of backyard bird feeding.

Orioles by nature have a “sweet tooth” and will eat nectar from flowers, wild fruits and insects. Their favorite bird-feeding food by far is grape jelly. Orange halves can be offered, but most orioles tend not to eat them much. People often put oranges out to attract the orioles to the feeding area. Other items orioles will eat are suet products (homemade, cakes, bark butter, logs, etc.), sugar water (they will drink from hummingbird or oriole nectar feeders), seed mixes (seem to prefer nut and fruit mixes), sliced grapes and mealworms (live or freeze-dried).

“We would like to thank everyone that participated in the survey,” said Lex Glover, wildlife technician with the SCDNR Bird Conservation Program. “Your time and efforts are greatly appreciated.”

Next year’s SCDNR Baltimore Oriole Winter Survey and Great Backyard Bird Count will be Feb. 12-15, 2021. If you have orioles frequenting your feeders during the winter months, (December, January and February), or know someone who does, SCDNR would like for you to participate in the survey. For more information on the Baltimore Oriole Winter Survey or to receive this year’s survey results, contact Lex Glover at GloverL@dnr.sc.gov.

Lex Glover, wildlife technician, SCDNR Bird Conservation Program

MORE INFORMATION 

“How Bird-Watching Prepared Me for Sheltering in Place”

A member of Seabrook Island Birders thought others might be interested in this great article on “How Bird-Watching Prepared Me for Sheltering in Place.”

Chimney Rock, on the eastern spur of the Point Reyes headlands in California, is well known for the elephant seals that congregate there. One afternoon, while walking down the path overlooking them, I saw a woman looking through a spotting scope on a tripod, directed out toward the water. It turned out she was watching seabirds. She told me she started bird-watching as she got older because she was analytically minded, loved numbers and words, but struggled with visual memory and acuity and wanted to strengthen those faculties. Having similar proclivities, I listened closely. Eventually, she asked me if I wanted to look.

By Nicholas Cannariato, New York Times Magazine, April 22, 2020

Read more here

Look Hoo We Found!

Early in January, several diehard members of Seabrook Island Birders were able to find a pair of Great Horned Owls and their potential nest at the conservancy lot on Cat Tail Pond Road on Seabrook Island, SC.  In the past several months, the owls have been re-sighted by a number of people, both from the conservancy lot and from the golf course. Then in early April, Joleen Ardaiolo & Bev Stribling were thrilled to see an owlet peaking out from the nest as they did their weekly Eastern Bluebird Box monitoring on the golf course!

Even in the times of coronavirus and quarantines, it can be exciting to view the beautiful nature of Seabrook Island!

Virtual Lecture with David Sibley

Join a Virtual Lecture on Wednesday, April 29, 2020 at 7:00 pm

From the renowned author and illustrator of the bestselling Sibley’s Guide to Birds comes What It’s Like to Be a Bird: From Flying to Nesting, Eating to Singing–What Birds Are Doing, and Why. This is the bird book for birders and non–birders alike that will excite and inspire by providing a new and deeper understanding of what common birds are doing–and why.

“Can birds smell?” “Is this the same cardinal that was at my feeder last year?” “Do robins ‘hear’ worms?” In What It’s Like to Be a Bird, David Sibley answers the most frequently asked questions about the birds we see most often. This special, large-format volume is geared to non–birders and the bird-obsessed, covering more than two hundred species with more than 330 illustrations. Sibley’s exacting artwork and wide-ranging expertise bring observed behaviors vividly to life. And while the text is aimed at adults–including fascinating research on the ways birds have adapted to environmental changes–it is nontechnical, making it perfect for parents and grandparents to share with young children, who will delight in David Sibley’s big, full-color illustrations.

To view the lecture, purchase a ticket for $40 + tax. The link to view the virtual lecture will be emailed to ticket holders on the afternoon of April 29th. The lecture will be available for two weeks. A copy of What It’s Like to Be a Bird will be mailed to your home from Mystery Lovers Bookshop. (This book is also available through Amazon as a hardcover or Kindle.)

What Bird Makes this Sound?

Each spring, Seabrook Island Birders receive many requests for us to identify the bird that makes this sound. Even if you have never seen this bird, chances are if you live or spend time in the spring on Seabrook Island, you have heard him after dusk and before sunrise! The bird we are hearing is the Chuck-will’s-widow, a “cousin” to another in the Nightjar family, the Eastern Whip-poor-will who makes this sound.

Below is a blog we have “recycled” from April 2, 2017, so you can learn more about the Chuck-will’s widow and the migration of these fascinating birds.

And remember, just email us or “Ask SIB” if you have questions about birds you are hearing or seeing!


Published April 2, 2017

On Friday, we asked if you could identify a bird by its song.  It was first reported on Seabrook Island early last Thursday morning by George Haskins.  The answer:  the Chuck-will’s-widow.  This bird winters as far south as Colombia, Venezuela and the Caribbean and breeds in pine, oak-hickory, and other forests of the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states. They tend to live in more open areas than the similar Whip-poor-will, which are not common here on Seabrook Island.

Chuck-will’s-widow – Flo Foley

Scientist continue to learn much about the migration of birds, especially with the advancement of technology such as using radar, acoustic, electronic and optical technologies. Spring migration starts as early as January and continues into June.  Birds generally take off shortly after sunset, some flying all night and landing just before dawn the next morning.  Others will fly nonstop for 60-100 hours as they flyover oceans and continents. Some nights there could be hundreds of millions of birds flying over North America.

Citizen Scientists like all of us are a great resource for migration information as we document bird sightings using the Audubon/Cornell Lab of Ornithology website: eBird.org.  This data is also available for anyone to view.  This link will open the eBird page to view the historical bird observations for all species by month for Charleston county.  For example, the Chuck-will’s-widow is shown below to arrive in April and is gone by the end of September.

Chuck-will’s-widow historical frequency sightings by month for Charleston County, SC from eBird.org

You can also drill down to view a map of locations where a bird has been documented, like the Chuck-will’s-widow map below.  Notice the red bubble was a sighting of a Chuck-will’s-widow documented by Aija Konrad on 3/31 near the tennis courts.

Chuck-will’s-widow map of sightings on Seabrook & Kiawah Island, SC from eBird.org

Another great website to learn more about bird migration, including a forecast each week for four geographic regions in the country, is Birdcast.info, a site created by Cornell.  Below is their forecast for the Chuck-will’s-widow for the Gulf Coast and Southeast and it looks like they are right on time!

Migrant Species

Chuck-will’s-widow

 

Begin
Arriving

3/29

Rapid Influx

4/10

Peak

4/24

Rapid
Departure

6/25

Last Departure

After Jun 30

Throughout April we will continue to share information related to bird migration including which birds are packing their bags to head north, which birds are arriving to breed and those who are just passing through and utilizing our island for rest and refueling.

In the meantime, check out this great article, Birdist Rule #70: Get Prepared for Spring Migration, by Nicholas Lund on the Audubon website.

Article submitted by:  Nancy Brown

Take a Look at the “Bird Library”

We hope you enjoy this article and livestream of a special library! Thanks to Joleen Ardaiolo for sharing this story from Time.com.

Livestream of the Belmont Library for Birds

Take a Moment to Dip Into the Miniature World of This Library For Bird

While many libraries across the country have closed due to coronavirus, there’s one library that’s staying open — and its flocks of visitors are overjoyed about it.

The Belmont Library for Birds, located in Charlottesville, VA., has open hours all day for all avian friends and even a few squirrels and a livestream for human companions who are responsibly practicing social distancing.

Time.com
(To see the full article click above)

Watch “SIB’s Movie Matinees” from the Comfort of your Home

In light of our new life of social distancing, Seabrook Island Birders wants to share some of our previously shown “SIB Movie Matinees” which you can watch from the comfort of your home. The first two films were shown last month, as the Red Knots began arriving for the annual visit to Seabrook Island.

The first, “Crash: A Tale of Two Species,” premiered on PBS Nature in 2008. It is the story of the fabric of life, and how every species is interconnected – each one important, no matter how big or small. At its center is the humble horseshoe crab, a creature which has remained virtually unchanged for 350 million years. Its annual spring spawning produces millions of eggs that are the lifeline for a tiny bird called the Red Knot, which migrates 10,000 miles from South America to the Arctic each year. Scientific and medical communities have discovered that the crab also provides an indispensable testing agent for drugs and vaccines, as well as resources for human optics and burn treatment. But horseshoe crab numbers are plummeting from their new use as bait for the fishing industry, dropping by two-thirds or more since 1990. And the precious pyramid depending on this age-old creature is about to come crashing down. To view the hour-long program, click play below:

PBS Nature: Crash: A Tale of Two Species

The second video “Birds of May”, filmed in May 2016 on the beaches of the Delaware Bay, is filmmaker Jared Flesher’s ode to the natural spectacle of the Red Knot’s annual visit. It’s also an examination of potential new threats to Red Knot survival. Not everyone is sure that expanded oyster farming and Red Knots can happily coexist. Against the scenic backdrop of the bay, Flesher interviews both oyster farmers and the shorebird biologists who fear that an oyster farming boom here could push the rufa Red Knot closer to extinction. To view the 27 minute film, click below:

Birds of May