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Signs of spring arrive with hooded orioles

Male hooded oriole
Male hooded oriole
Lesly Torres/USFWS from Wikimedia Commons

In some areas of the country, robins signal the arrival of spring. But, in San Diego, other birds ring in spring. One of those birds is the arrival of the hooded oriole, Icterus cucullatus. Hooded orioles begin to arrive in March and stay the entire summer, even breeding and raising chicks in the area. This brightly colored bird is a welcome visitor to the area.

Hooded orioles are a medium-sized, brightly colored bird of the New World oriole family. The males are bright yellow or orange with black throats, wings, and tail feathers. The females are more a dull olive or yellow color. These birds winter in the southern areas of Mexico and Central America and breed in the southwest areas of California, Arizona and extreme southern areas of Texas and New Mexico.

One of the possible reasons why it likes to breed in San Diego is the abundance of its preferred types of trees to nest in. They tend to choose palms, eucalyptus, and other trees that are common in the area. Their nests are often a basket of woven fibers similar looking to that of weaver birds in Africa. Males defend the nest while the females bring food and care for the young. It is not uncommon to see males doing distraction displays or attacking intruders who even pass by the nesting area.

Like many birds of the Icterus family and their cousins the blackbirds, hooded orioles have a wide range of vocalizations. They can often be heard making a variety of sounds depending on the situation. These birds also enjoy fruit and nectar and can easily be attracted into yards with hummingbird feeders or fresh fruit. They also eat insects. Hooded orioles generally get along peacefully with other birds, except around their nests.

One can see hooded orioles all over the San Diego and southern California coast. Look for them around taller trees or near palms with large fronds. Birds with nests have been seen around areas such Mission Trails Regional Park and Lindo Lake, but are not limited to those areas.