Kind of on a bird roll at the moment so figured I’d go ahead and crank one out while I had a few minutes to spare. Today’s bird was originally featured back during the Project Chekov days (link here). Back then I was actually focused on the male species of the Baltimore Oriole and if you will allow me the courtesy to say … utilizing some fairly crappy shots. Those were desperate times and if you recall what the project was all about (26 birds in 26 days in alphabetical order) beggars can’t be choosers. These shots of the less flashy gender are thankfully a little better.
As revealed by the line and loop, these shots were taken at one of my bird feeders. That feeder typically serves quite the collection of Golden Finches, Chickadees, Nuthatches and Cardinals. Every day I take a glance out the window to see if there are any new feathers taking a moment to fuel up (the feeders are positioned right outside my master bedroom so I can wake up and immediately see my feathered friends – it’s the little things in life that keeps me going). This particular specimen caught my attention. My eyes tried to dismiss it as a Finch, but the brian (sorry, running joke based on the large number of emails that come addressed as such) … correcting .. but the brain kept nagging at me. Not sure what the problem was at the time, I obeyed my birding principles and grabbed the Beast.
With it in the tin, I put the camera down and went about my business… for a year (he types apologetically). At least they eventually made their way to the digital darkroom. It became immediately apparent that this was no Finch based on the stature alone coming in at almost the twice the size of those small in size creatures. The yellow was off as well with this specimen having a darker/oranger (my blog, I get to make up words whenever I want to) variant of the bright yellow the Golden’s boast. A quick look at the references didn’t come up with a definitive match but had some leanings to a Meadowlark, which sports a similar dagger of a beak.
Hit the jump to see and read more about this sunshine bird.
A few more searches on the web had some similar reference shots, but in each one the yellowing didn’t seem right or they had more or no speckling on the side of their face. The barring on the wing would differ slightly as well. The deduction was this specimen was likely the female representation and my experience is reference books do a crappy job of showing all aspects of a birds categorization (adult male, adult female, juvi male, juvi female, seasonal palettes etc. – Stokes is probably the best at it). Changing tactics I looked for similar structure and came upon the Baltimore Oriole as a possibility. Now that the search was narrowed, the net was once again flipped through but this time looking for females of Orange colored birds.
Some close variations came back with the best match confirming the Baltimore option. There was only one thing to do now and that was to have Linda confirm it on that Facebooky thingy. It took like a whole 5 minutes for someone to come back and confirm this was indeed a female Baltimore Oriole. In a slight boost to the confidence the responder did mention there is a lot of variation in the females which accounts for the differences in the coloring and speckling.
One of the reason for the slight hesitation in accepting the initial Baltimore guess is that it was sitting on my bird feeder which is predominantly filled with sunflower seeds. No male Baltimore Oriole has ever even sniffed at the feeder much less LANDED on them. A male landed on my Hummingbird feeder once and one or two opted to fly through the woods at infrequent times. Beyond that, not much love for our place – muy sad.
She looks a little pissed in the shot above. Although it doesn’t look like it from the shots, there was seed still left in the feeder so that wasn’t the issue. Maybe it was constipated – that can make you grumpy. It is probably time to highlight some interesting facts about the Baltimore. For starters the Cornell site states they will ignore green grapes and yellow cherries even if they are in their tasty stages. Sorry for the lame fact, but most of the good stuff was used up in the previous post. This one is more interesting. Females get a deeper hue of orange with every molt to the point the older females … err sorry to offend, the more experienced females can take on the bright orange exhibited by males. Talk about making it easier to find women your own age compared to having to look for the childhood branding of the smallpox vaccination in my generation (if your date didn’t have it you were in the danger zone).
Cornell also reaffirms they are not really seed feeding birds preferring insects and fruits. If I get ambitious I might add an Oriole feeder to my grounds this spring/summer to see if we can attract a few more of these pretty birds. Hell, maybe I’ll hit the jackpot and they hate Blue Jays as much as I do hehehe.
Take care everyone, see you again in a bit.