A Red Hot Poker Attracts Orioles





We usually choose flowers for our yard that are known to attract birds or butterflies. For example we have in our yard coral honeysuckle, fire pink, cardinal flower, and red buckeye, all native and liked by hummingbirds. Last year, however, we planted a red hot poker (Kniphofia species)from South Africa based only on its striking beauty, but much to our excitement it turns out to be absolutely loved by orchard orioles. The male (adult and juvenile) and female orioles come to the flowers many times daily and drink nectar from the open flowers at the bottom of the flower head. Goldfinches have also come to the flowers. Apparently there are different species of poker that can greatly extend the flowering season, as can dead-heading the flower stalks to prevent seed formation.

I believe that it is more beneficial in terms of nutrition to feed birds in this way, with flowers bearing nectar, than to provide artificial nectar with sugar water. I certainly find it appeals to my sense of “ecological correctness” even though the flowers may be exotic.

Bill Dunson

About Bill Dunson

Bill Dunson, born in rural Georgia, skipped 12th grade and went directly to Yale. Bill subsequent-ly received a PhD in Zoology from the University of Michigan, studying softshell turtles. Bill is Professor Emeritus of Pennsylvania State University thanks to a career spent entirely at that institution, teaching and doing research on the physio-logical ecology and ecotoxiciology of reptiles, amphibians and fish. Always curious about nature, Bill has dedicated his life to learning and sharing his knowledge with others. He has served on many advisory boards here in Southwest Florida to preserve the water that gives life to our region.

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