Not long ago Leonard and I noticed swags of fishing line draped over tree branches in our yard (Modoc County CA). Each strand lead back to an old bunkhouse where unused spools of fishing line usually sit on shelves. But the spools were scattered over the floor. Leonard and I were at a loss to explain what happened. We cleared up the mess and closed the bunkhouse door, which usually sits slightly ajar.
The next morning I noticed several Bullock’s orioles (Icterus bullockii) attempting to get into the bunkhouse. Curious, I opened the bunkhouse door and watched from inside our house. Before long an oriole flew into the bunkhouse, knocked a spool of fishing line onto the floor, found the loose end and flew off into the nearby poplars. Mystery solved!
As I noted in a prior post (“Avian Architecture” 07-24-2011), Bullock’s orioles build a hanging nest from strips of bark, baling twine, hair, fibers – and fishing line. Thousands of loops and stitches make up each nest. The orioles obviously found a wonderful supply of nest material.
It amazes me to think that the orioles went into the bunkhouse, found the spools of fishing line, pushed a spool off of the shelf and located the loose end to carry off to their nesting site. Unfortunately the long, attached strand was impossible for the oriole to weave, yet they kept trying with other strands, always with the same results.
I cut several approximately yard-long strands of fishing line and strung them on the closed bunkhouse door. As can be seen in the photographs, the orioles are now happily taking the smaller pieces of fishing line for their nests. For two days now every fishing line section I put out disappears almost immediately.
A mystery with a happy ending.