Return of the Prodigal Grosbeak

The beginning of May is when many migratory songbirds return to the Chicago area. And so, before leaving home for a business trip, I stocked the bird feeders with some of their favorite foods.

Rose Breasted Grosbeak
Rose Breasted Grosbeak

Sure enough, when I returned today, there were Baltimore Orioles and Rose Breasted Grosbeaks making themselves at home in the back garden.

Baltimore Orioles spend the winter in Colombia, Central America, and other areas around the Caribbean. They are not considered to be endangered, but are not normally seen because they spend their time up in the tops of trees. Unless, that is, you put out grape jelly and orange halves, but especially grape jelly. And that is exactly what I did before leaving on Tuesday morning. Once they start feeding in your back garden, I have found that they will stick around until fall.

Male Baltimore Oriole
Male Baltimore Oriole

Rose Breasted Grosbeaks are large finches, related to Cardinals. Like the Orioles, they overwinter in regions near the Caribbean. They are ground feeders who appreciate sunflower or safflower seeds. They like to feed on the ground, so I attract them with a platform feeder. Unfortunately, in my garden they show up in May but don’t stick around for more than two or three weeks. They may show up again on their way south in the autumn.

Female Baltimore Oriole
Female Baltimore Oriole

Have you seen any favorite songbirds return lately?

38 Comments on “Return of the Prodigal Grosbeak”

  1. Oh pretty! Yes, about 5 days ago I went out in the evening to close up my cold frame and the sky was full of the first swallows, swirling and calling! A wonderful sight as it means summer is coming! They spend the winter in southern Africa.

  2. I would so love to be able to identify some of the birds that we see here…but they are further away from the windows…and I can’t always see them well enough. Your little beauties are stunning.


  3. Unless you count catbirds, LOL! They make so much noise and chatter so they are sort of fun if you have a dearth of songbirds, I guess. It has been so cold here I am still waiting for orioles and hummingbirds, but I have heard the bluebirds are supposedly back. I saw a pair of eagles fly over a week ago, they nest here. The male (I assume) was HUGE, although its mate was quite a bit smaller. The larger had a nearly 7′ wing span, the other around 5′.

  4. I’ve never put out fruit for the birds, I really should try it and see what it attracts. Hopefully, not just a bunch of wasps. Lately, we’ve been getting a lot of pine siskins at my feeder. I loved seeing the pictures in this post and reading about the Orioles.

  5. Occasionally I get Orioles but it’s been a few years since I’ve seen any. A friend in a nearby town reported that she saw her first Hummingbird. Slowly but surely the birds of summer are returning to roost.

  6. I don’t think we have those around here, in SE Nebraska. They are sweet looking birds. My husband puts seeds in the feeders, and I encourage him to use mostly safflower seeds so there won’t be as many squirrels, and also so we don’t get a bunch of strange plants coming up. I think he mostly just gets that when I’m with him, though. Whatever it is coming up under the feeders, a rabbit has been munching on it.

    Thanks for your words of encouragement about using cultivars of native plants. One thing I need to remember is that the plants I put here are not going to be from close enough to us to be considered truly native. I just need to relax and enjoy the blooms and the critters.

  7. What beautiful visitors to your feeders. I haven’t noticed many birds at my usually active feeder since I replaced the black oil sunflower seed with safflower seed. I’d heard that less than welcome guests (rats, mice) don’t like safflower seed; the birds don’t seem too happy about it either.

    • I’ve fed safflower seed and the birds will eat it, though grackles and starlings don’t like it much, which is a good thing. It just takes them a while to figure out that they want to eat the safflower. They do have bird brains, after all.

  8. Pretty little birds Jason, it’s a nice change from seeing our birds, the colourful ones are pretty hard to capture and aren’t seen on a regular basis, Unless you have a native plant garden with no dogs or cats or noisy miners.

  9. We had a Grosbeak in our yard VERY briefly last week. I hope he/she comes back. I have had to take down one of my feeders because of the squirrels. They are leaping directly from the ground up to the top of the feeder and hanging upside down to gorge. And this is with a large baffler in place. They don’t seem interested in the finch feeder, perhaps the holes are so small that they feel it’s not worth it; although I have seen them sitting and looking at the feeder like they’re trying to figure it out. They have also taken a liking to my furniture, chewing holes in the seating. Also are uprooting just about everything new that I put in the ground. Tipping over pots: hooligans!

  10. You have such colourful and exotic birds, they make ours look drab in comparison. However, despite appearances it’s their personalities that provide the entertainment. Robins are friendly and inquisitive. House sparrows are daring and playful. Wagtails are shy and secretly dart around. Wood pigeons are just a bit stupid and clumsy.

  11. Thanks for sharing your picture of the Rose Grosbeak. They made a brief stop (couple days) at the feeder to refuel for the flight north. I plan to put out an oriole feeder in hopes of attracting one or two. We are suppose to have the orchard oriole here. Our hummers (Ruby-throated) are back so spring is officially here. We have a few bald eagles in the area. They hang out along the river. There is a nesting pair that decided the best place to raise their kids was at Shiloh National battlefield park in Savannah, TN.

    Really like your site!!

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