Hanging by a Thread

A female Baltimore Oriole hangs by a thread, entangled in her own nest materials.

The Baltimore Oriole poked and pulled on her growing web of thread.

I was fascinated by her nest-building technique. Her work seemed somewhat random, yet over just a few days, the tangled thread evolved from loose and flat to a tightly woven, multi-layered pouch. Her construction project took about eleven days to complete. I marveled at how a bird’s instinct could guide such intricate weaving.

But Lady Baltimore’s work was not without drama.

Lord Baltimore inspected his mate’s work frequently. He would hop in, pull on a string or two, and leave. He often tangled with the tangles, so to speak, pulling out threads and leaving Lady Baltimore to repair the damage. The bird had two left feet, it seemed. On at least one occasion, he became so ensnared, I wasn’t sure he would extricate himself.

Lady Baltimore also caught the occasional thread in a feather or a foot. She would calmly disengage and resume her work. But one time (nest-day two), she snagged a string that got her in some serious trouble. Take a look.

You can see from the video transition I inserted that I wasn’t able to follow Lady Baltimore’s split-second fall from the nest. And it took me a few moments to restore focus. I edited out the blurriest frames, so the actual incident went on much longer than you see in the video. My heart literally pounded as she worked on breaking that string, which seemed to have caught her in two places.

Baltimore Oriole nests are known to be quite durable. The birds don’t reuse them in subsequent nesting cycles, but they often remain intact for several years. The apparent strength of the string that trapped Lady Baltimore gives one clue why.

I shared two day-by-day nest-construction videos on social media that I’ve not included in my infrequent blog posts.

Lady Baltimore Builds a Nest – Snippets showing Lady Baltimore’s progress as she weaves, from nest-construction day two through day eleven, when the nest appears to be complete.

Day-by-Day Oriole Nest– Views of just the nest, day two through day eleven.   If you’d like to see more of the oriole activity I’ve filmed, here’s a link to my Vimeo page.

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