Page:Ornithological biography, or an account of the habits of the birds of the United States of America, volume 1.djvu/251

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223
ORCHARD ORIOLE.

a return of attention. Their singings and tricks are performed with redoubled ardour, until they are paired, when nidification is attended to with the utmost activity. They resort to the meadows, or search along the fences for the finest, longest, and toughest grasses they can find, and having previously fixed on a spot either on an Apple Tree, or amidst the drooping branches of the Weeping Willow, they begin by attaching the grass firmly and neatly to the twigs more immediately around the chosen place. The filaments are twisted, passed over and under, and interwoven in such a manner as almost to defy the eye of man to follow their windings. All this is done by the bill of the bird, in the manner used by the Baltimore Oriole. The nest is of a hemispherical form, and is supported by the margin only. It seldom exceeds three or four inches in depth, is open almost to the full extent of its largest diameter at the top or entrance, and finished on all sides, as well as within, with the long slender grasses already mentioned. Some of these go round the nest several times, as if coarsely woven together. This is the manner in which the nest is constructed in Louisiana; in the Middle Districts it is usually lined with soft and warm materials. The female lays from four to six eggs of a bluish-white tint, sprinkled with dark brown, and raises only a single brood in the season. The young follow the parents for several weeks, and many birds congregate towards autumn, but the males soon separate from the females, and set out by themselves as they arrived in spring.

The sociality of the Orchard Oriole is quite remarkable, and in this respect that bird differs widely from the Baltimore, which will not suffer any other bird of its species to build a nest, or to remain within a considerable distance from the spot which it has selected for its own; whereas many nests of the species now before you may be observed in the same garden or orchard, and often within a few yards of the house. I have counted as many as nine of these nests on a few acres of ground, and the different pairs to which they belonged lived in great harmony.

Although the food of the Orchard Orioles consists principally of insects of various kinds, it is not composed exclusively of them. They are fond of different sorts of fruits and berries. Figs are also much relished by them, as well as mulberries and strawberries, but not to such a degree as to draw the attention of the gardener or husbandman towards their depredations.