RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas – If there is a silver lining to being homebound during the corona crisis, it is being able to spend more time in our own backyards. Richard Moore shares the story of a remarkable backyard avian architect that constructs an astounding work of art.
It all starts with a few strands of plant fiber tightly woven to a specially selected branch. What follows will be hundreds and hundreds of trips to the evolving nest before the exquisitely woven hanging stocking is finally completed.
The female does all the labor, while the male often perches nearby to admire her handiwork. It is difficult to tell the two bright orange birds apart, but the male is often slightly brighter in color and has somewhat of a fuller black throat. He is also conspicuous by his lack of nest building activity, although he dutifully stands guard.
Birds are capable of extraordinary engineering feats, and the Altamira oriole certainly constructs one of the most impressive nests in nature. The two foot long nest is the longest of any North American bird.
Their nest building prowess is not a learned trait, but instinctual. They are literally hardwired with the drive and capability to create their beautifully woven masterpieces.
For this particular nest, the female visits a nearby palm tree where she carefully selects just the right strand for her construction.
It may take her two or three weeks to intricately weave the thousands of fibers together, and this is one bird that likes to whistle while she works.
With the nest finally completed, whether it is in a towering tepeguaje or thorny ebony, it is time for egg laying and two weeks of incubation.
Fortunately, for the hardworking female, her mate will assist in feeding the young. From dawn to dusk, the dutiful parents will bring meal after meal to their youngsters that will mature rapidly and fledge approximately two weeks after hatching.