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Bullock's Oriole

May 21, 2021

The Bullock's Oriole is a rare bird although it has become an annual regular to Nova Scotia. It used to be combined with the Baltimore Oriole and known as the Northern Oriole. It resides primarily from the centre of the North American continent to the west.

This is a first spring male and as such is a tricky identification. When identifying birds never use Google images since about 30 percent of the identifications are wrong. Use only the accepted sources such as, "The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern (or Western) North America". Online sources such as the American Bird Association and The Cornell Lab of Ornithology do not provide enough examples or details on field marks to be useful.

So I have to resort to the tried and true Sherlock Holmes method of deduction, "If you eliminate what is impossible whatever is left, no matter how improbable, is the truth".

I eliminated the Orchard Oriole as a candidate because my bird is too large and has a rapier like bill. The Orchard Oriole, especially the female, is hardly larger than a warbler and has a shorter less pointed bill. Also it is yellow not orange like my candidate bird.

The other candidate is the Baltimore Oriole but I can find no reliable confirmed example of a first spring Baltimore Oriole with a black chin or goatee without  the associated black head.

The most reliable field mark is the black line through the eye of the Bullock's Oriole and although it is faint it is visible on some images. The Baltimore Oriole does not have the black line through the eye. The lack of a pale grayish under belly is inconsistent with the first spring Bullock's Oriole and this does concern me unless it is a second spring Bullock's Oriole. The beginnings of the large white wing patch is also evident which is another field mark for Bullock's Oriole. It is also possible that it is a hybrid Bullock's/Baltimore Oriole.

I will have lots more photos if the bird lingers feasting on my suet offerings. It is a yard first. Photographing through two panes of glass never produces good results so I will try to photograph it in the open.

Bullock's Oriole

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