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The Baltimore Oriole
by [?]

The nest of nests, the ideal nest, is unquestionably that of the Baltimore oriole. It is the only perfectly pensile nest we have. The nest of the orchard oriole is indeed mainly so, but this bird generally builds lower and shallower, more after the manner of the vireos.

The Baltimore oriole loves to attach its nest to the swaying branches of the tallest elms, making no attempt at concealment, but satisfied if the position be high and the branch pendent. This nest would seem to cost more time and skill than any other bird structure. A peculiar flax-like material seems to be always sought after and always found. The nest when completed assumes the form of a large, suspended gourd. The walls are thin but firm, and proof against the most driving rain. The mouth is hemmed or over-handed with strings or horsehair, and the sides are usually sewed through and through with the same.

Not particular as to the matter of secrecy, the bird is not particular as to material, so that it be of the nature of strings or threads. A lady friend once told me that, while she was working by an open window, one of these birds approached while her back was turned, and, seizing a skein of some kind of thread or yarn, made off with it to its half-finished nest. But the perverse yarn caught fast in the branches, and, in the bird’s efforts to extricate it, got hopelessly tangled. She tugged away at it all day, but was finally obliged to content herself with a few detached portions. The fluttering strings were an eyesore to her ever after, and, passing and repassing, she would give them a spiteful jerk, as much as to say, “There is that confounded yarn that gave me so much trouble.”

One day in Kentucky I saw an oriole weave into her nest unusual material. As we sat upon the lawn in front of the cottage, we had noticed the bird just beginning her structure, suspending it from a long, low branch of the Kentucky coffee-tree that grew but a few feet away. I suggested to my host that if he would take some brilliant yarn and scatter it about upon the shrubbery, the fence, and the walks, the bird would probably avail herself of it, and weave a novel nest. I had heard of its being done, but had never tried it myself. The suggestion was at once acted upon, and in a few moments a handful of zephyr yarn, crimson, orange, green, yellow, and blue, was distributed about the grounds. As we sat at dinner a few moments later, I saw the eager bird flying up toward her nest with one of these brilliant yarns streaming behind her. They had caught her eye at once, and she fell to work upon them with a will; not a bit daunted by their brilliant color, she soon had a crimson spot there amid the green leaves. She afforded us rare amusement all the afternoon and the next morning. How she seemed to congratulate herself over her rare find! How vigorously she knotted those strings to her branch and gathered the ends in and sewed them through and through the structure, jerking them spitefully like a housewife burdened with many cares! How savagely she would fly at her neighbor, an oriole that had a nest just over the fence a few yards away, when she invaded her territory! The male looked on approvingly, but did not offer to lend a hand. There is something in the manner of the female on such occasions, something so decisive and emphatic, that one entirely approves of the course of the male in not meddling or offering any suggestions. It is the wife’s enterprise, and she evidently knows her own mind so well that the husband keeps aloof, or plays the part of an approving spectator.

The woolen yarn was ill-suited to the Kentucky climate. This fact the bird seemed to appreciate, for she used it only in the upper part of her nest, in attaching it to the branch and in binding and compacting the rim, making the sides and bottom of hemp, leaving it thin and airy, much more so than are the same nests with us. No other bird would, perhaps, have used such brilliant material; their instincts of concealment would have revolted, but the oriole aims more to make its nest inaccessible than to hide it. Its position and depth insure its safety.