Birds of Clear Lake Twp.
May 21, 2019
Left: American Robin. Photo credit: Judy Oxenger Johnston. Right: Baltimore Oriole. Photo credit: Lorri Stump
We often spotlight the migrating visitors in our ongoing bird education pieces because visitors often stand out from day-to-day life. However, birds that live here year round or come here to breed have great stories, too!
The bird population in the Clear Lake Township and Watershed is vibrant due to our friendly forest habitat, wetlands and especially our clean, clear lake water. The birds featured on the backpage of May 2019 Clear Thinking are two of the most notable harbingers of spring in our community.
American Robins (Turdus migratorius) are early signals for the arrival of spring. Year round residents, robins are the largest member of the thrush family in North America. At ~8-11 inches in length, they are almost twice the size of bluebirds, another thrush family member. Recognizable by the rust-colored belly, dark head, white patch on the lower belly and a fast stepping walk that ends abruptly with a cocked head.
Robins eat vast amounts of invertebrates (earthworms, insects, snails) and fruit, particularly fond of chokeberries, hawthorn, dogwood and sumac berries. They spend the winter in woods where berry-producing trees and shrubs are found. The female robin builds a 6- to 8-inch wide and 3- to 6-inch deep nest in trees for her 3 to 5 sky blue eggs.
Baltimore Orioles (Icterus galbula) arrive in the Clear Lake Community for breeding beginning in April and leave for southern homes (often Central and South America) in mid-summer. These bright orange and black birds with thick necks, long legs and pointed bills are members of the blackbird family. They were named for the heraldic crest colors of England’s Baltimore family.
Smaller than robins at a length of 6.5 to 7.5 inches, Orioles are tree feeders and often can be seen slowly fluttering between tree tops as they feed on insects, pests and flowers. They also visit lower levels for ripe / dark colored berries and fruit. Backyard feeders attract them with cut oranges hung from tree limbs.
Females Orioles build hanging sock-like nests in top branches of tall trees, especially American elms, maples and cottonwoods, to hold 3 to 7 pale gray or bluish white eggs. Males and females often “chatter” noisily in tree tops and also produce short flute-like whistling songs. Warning calls are sharp, staccato “chuck” sounds as nests are defended.
Enjoy your spring transition into the Clear Lake community by stopping to watch, listen and appreciate the beauty and sounds of our American Robins and Baltimore Oriole neighbors!
Source: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, allaboutbirds.org.