(Photo by Glenn P. Knoblock)
While there's a considerable frenzy over the return of ruby-throated hummingbirds each spring, another colorful bird is also returning from its wintering grounds in Florida and Central America: the Baltimore Oriole.
We've been keeping an eye on the orioles' progress both on the Journey North migration map as well as on eBird, and there has been an explosion of activity in Illinois. Last week, they started popping up in northern Illinois and on the morning of Tuesday, April 30, we had our first oriole sighting at Plum Creek Nature Center in Crete Township.
Last year, the first reported sighting in Will County came on April 30 at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Now that the action is heating up, you'll want to keep your eyes peeled for these beauties. If you're not already a member of the Will County Wildlife Facebook group run by the Forest Preserve District, it's a good time to join so you can see all of the incredible wildlife sightings as activity in the preserves increases.
"Historically, orioles and the hummingbirds, along with rose-breasted grosbeaks and indigo buntings, show up around the same time here," said Bob Bryerton, an interpretive naturalist at Plum Creek Nature Center. "Sometimes, (they show up) on the same day and sometimes within a week or so of each other."
RELATED: MONARCHS HAVE LANDED IN ILLINOIS AND YOU CAN CHART THEIR PROGRESS
Now is a good time to make sure your oriole feeders are out to give them a bit of a helping hand until they have better access to the bugs and berries they usually feast on. To attract orioles, it's as easy as cutting an orange and putting it in a visible spot so they can find it.
"If a migrating flock finds your yard, you could easily find multiple orioles at your feeder station at one time," said Chris Gutmann, the facility supervisor for the District's Isle a la Cache Museum in Romeoville. "For any orioles remaining to nest, it's likely they'll remember your yard as a food source and return."
Even if you strike out in your yard, there are plenty of locations in Will County preserves where they can be seen. In addition to Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve (which is home to Plum Creek Nature Center), Isle a la Cache Preserve is one of these spots, and both Baltimore orioles and orchard orioles can routinely be spotted at Lake Renwick Heron Rookery Nature Preserve in Plainfield, around Four Rivers Rivers Environmental Education Center in Channahon, and Whalon Lake in Naperville.
Stay up-to-date on the happenings in Will County's forest preserves by subscribing to our digital newsletter, The Citizen. Signing up is easy, free of charge and provides subscribers with weekly updates on Forest Preserve news, upcoming events, and other fun and useful information for the whole family.