Birdz n the Hood

We are now officially deep into the holiday season. Christmas will be here before we know it and the New Year stands ready to pile on disappointment for any unfulfilled ’22 goals. For a change, I happen to be in fairly good shape on the resolution front. As mentioned in a previous post, my 1200 mile goal has been met (currently at 1221.6 to be exact), and technically, my Average Year goals has been blown out of the water. Ron always reminds me that I thought it would be impossible to crest 200 birds in a single year. Stunned the count currently sits at 294 to the point I’m optimistic there’s an outside chance to crest 300. Two possible birds were on the hunt list for the end of this week (Prairie Falcon/Snowy Owl). Unfortunately, Mr. Freeze has decided to snow on my parade. The Four Snowmen of the Blizzpocalypse (link here) arrive tomorrow followed by the next “Ice Age” (-1F degrees base with 55mph gusts belching windchills to -30 and below). In those conditions, both Scrat and I would both lose our n….oses (link here). Fingers crossed we can get 6 checks the week after Christmas while we head south. In recognition of the “Hoodie” layer weather forecast – as in t-shirt, sweater, hoodie, coat, scarf, mittens and snoot-boot… how about we “check” out today’s featured feathered friend.

Hooded Oriole found at University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Brownsville, TX January 2022

Hit the jump to read more about our orange flavored specimen.

Ironically, it looks like I took this picture in the middle of a snowstorm thanks to the overly light background. Just one of those sensor nuances when taking overhead pictures on a very overcast day. In an effort to try and draw out some details in the pitch black and brilliant orange feathering, the grey clouds were amped. Normally I would simply isolate the bird from the background and manage the areas independently (which the new Lightroom subject masking makes significantly easier). After looking at it for a while, decided I kinda liked how the lighter background complimented the coloring in the bird so kept it.

Hooded Oriole found at University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Brownsville, TX January 2022

In case you missed the not so subtle hint, this burst of sunshine is a Hooded Oriole. Not just any old Hood, rather my first ever Hooded Oriole. This happens to be another one of those birds I’ve been hunting for years. They are not a resident of the Midwest (not even in a migration zone) so our best opportunity is during our January trips to the southern Texas. Even then, it is a longshot as they really only push up from Central America and the California Baja during the breeding season, preferring the balmier climates of the Central American coastlines. Every once in a while, one would get reported along the Rio Grande Valley – likely a holdover from the breeding season or misplaced its pocket compass during the migration phase. Estero Llano Grande SP and Bensen-Rio Grande Valley SP both had sightings this year and like the year before that and the year before that and the… you get the picture, that bird never made into my tin those previous years.

Hooded Oriole found at University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Brownsville, TX January 2022

One of the things that make this even more difficult is their similarity to another rather abundant bird in that region, the Altamira Oriole (link here, here and here). Both sport the dominant orange and black coloring you would expect from the Oriole males. They also both have black feathering on their neck extending through their bill and up to the eyebrows. Some of the blame for my hardship in locating can be attributed to the bird naming organization(s). When I heard the name Hooded I imagined hipsters in their black work hoodies (likely carrying around licorice pizzas trying to bullshit those of us who lived through that era, they are sonically better than digital – yeah, wrong). Expectations were set that the black would cover the entire head causing me to likely dismiss several opportunities. With that corrected, honed my field ID to look for one very distinctive feature and one slightly more nuanced. The Altamiras have a yellow/orange top wingbar where the Hood’s are white. Notice that and you are likely good to go. Otherwise, you can determine the species by the outline of the black neck patch as it drops down from the back of the eye. You will notice from the provided reference links the black pushes inward toward the bill where the Hooded drops pretty much straight down giving it a much fuller black throat. You might be able to use the fact the Hooded have more of a curved bill than the other Orioles, but good luck with “relative size” characteristics in the field.

Hooded Oriole found at University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Brownsville, TX January 2022

It is the vertical black edge that gave away this specimen found at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Brownsville, TX. If you recall, that is the same place we found the Social Flycatcher (link here). Ron missed both the Social and the Hooded this year – fingers crossed he’ll get another chance when we meet up again on our upcoming trip.

Cornell is a bit limited on their interesting facts for this particular species. One thing to pass along is the fact their coloring can vary depending on their region. As you can tell from the images here, the Texas visitors wear a “flame orange” feathering where those that breed in the far southwestern US disguise themselves with a “bright yellow”. That website also attributes the growing popularity of ornamental palm trees further into the interior of the US for Hooded sightings deeper into the States. I asked for a palm tree for my fast approaching birthday – wish me luck hehehe.

Take care everyone, be safe in your holiday travels and hopefully avoid any of the flu/Covid/RSV strains that might be lurking about. This is the season to be with family, significant others, friends and those with wings, not laying in the bedroom clutching a tissue box.

40 thoughts on “Birdz n the Hood”

  1. Just read on our news what weather you kiddos are about to get clobbered with, cyclone bombs? Sounds like fun. The temperatures quoted are surreal. Over here we have just ‘endured’ 10 days where it struggled to get above freezing during daylight and as low as -10c at night, bet that sounds tropical right? To us it was bloody cold and for the time of year very unusual!
    Anyway that Oriel is a stunner.
    Keep warm.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. 😂😂🤣🤣 Had to laugh at your comment! Really, I bet “B” does too. We had that darn cold here last week and caused nearly the entire Dutch population to get ICE Fever (that now rare and crazy illness of skating on natural ice.🥶🙄)

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      1. Too funny! Ever consider putting blades on the bottom of your kayak and having the hubby pull you down the channel? Don’t tell him I came up with that idea, don’t want any hate mail hehehe. Something tells me a Minnesota gal would be out in a T-shirt and shorts when the rest of the populations is bundled up in “A Christmas Story” parkas!

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        1. Nope! No shorts and T-shirt gal here my mama told me to use my brain for something other than a hat rack! We did see a young man yesterday in such gear and immediately I and the Hubby commented “what the heck is that young man thinking?!”
          I will keep your kayak suggestion for an appropriate unsuspecting moment!hehehe Won’t he be surprised.😂🤣😂🤣

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    2. We somewhat lucked out on the snow as it tapered back to only around 4 or 5 inches, but the temps dropped big time (-32F last night, not much bettter tonight at -22F for the windchills). Fortunately, born and raised here, so we are pretty accustomed to the harsher winters – so much that we will be heading south to Texas soon hehehe. Appreciate you coming by B! I have some Butters ready to bring your way – hopefully sometime soon from the road, we’ll see how it goes.

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  2. We really enjoyed discovering some “different” orioles when we lived in south Texas. Great shots of the Hooded!

    Good luck with the weather! Take a tip from your subject and keep your own “hoodie” pulled up tight.

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    1. Thanks Wally – so far the tip of the spear has been the temperatures which are downright brutal at the moment. Luckily the snow fell short of predictions, but the massive wind gusts are causing whiteouts on the roads. The hoodie is definitely cinched up tight like Kenny from Southpark. Appreciate you dropping in and stay safe over the holidays.

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  3. Wow, Brian, you really nailed it with these hooded oriole photos. Great background, too, giving full glory to this gorgeous bird. Great that it’s your lifer, too. Happy holidays, my friend, and may you have many lifers in the new year.

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    1. Thank you Jet – I was not too optimistic when I was taking the shots based on the dreary day, but they turned out better than expected. Appreciate the wishes and hoping to kick the new year off with a flurry of birds from Texas (fingers crossed). Take care, stay safe over the holidays and keep those culture posts coming – learn so much from them.

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    1. You are quite welcome Cheryl, always makes me feel good when I can a good looking bird for your entertainment. Appreciate the wishes and have a wonderful Christmas season and a new year filled with happiness and more great poems to share.

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    1. Glad I could introduce you to another member of the Oriole family . I’ve always considered the Altamira my favorite of this family, but after finding this specimen I might have to amend that…although the orange wingbar is pretty cute on the Altamira. Stay safe during these festive days!

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  4. Laughed at your Four Snowmen of the Blizzpocalypse! Really, they should hire you at the weather service as that sounds so much better than cyclone bomb.
    Cool, colorful bird! Best travel wishes as you head South (giggle). Maybe you will have nice weather this year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I will have to give full credit to the article I linked to – I had originally had typed my usual “snowmegeddon”, but Ron sent me that article right before I posted and laughed so hard I had to go back and edit in Blizzpocalypse. Hoping we get some decent weather in Texas. As you are aware, two years in a row we’ve brought the heart of Texas snow and ice. We are taking donations from Texas residents to stay here and keep the cold with us ha! Thanks for coming by CJ and warm thoughts.

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      1. If you can get ANY of those oil rich tight wads to unleash some money to stop you from traveling…Please send me your secret! I have done everything possible in trying to get money to stop visiting Texas and they never negotiate with me. If bad weather was the key I would have been happy to provide. 😂🤣😂🥶🥶🥶🥶⛄️⛄️⛄️⛄️⛄️ Again safe travels and happy birding!!!

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        1. Well, I can’t say I’ve been successful yet – hoping they might get the picture if they have a massive snow storm AGAIN this year. Linda checked today and South Padre Island is currently around 39F with a feels like 35F and we haven’t even left yet! 5 or so more degrees are gonna start passing out again.

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    1. Glad you were able to enjoy our featured Oriole – he definitely puts a pop of color in what was a rather drab day. Appreciate you dropping by Maggie and best wishes for safe travels and happy holiday season.

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    1. So glad I was able to bring you such a wonderful bird – This Hoodie series has been sitting in my queue for just under a year and wanted to make a point to feature it before the new year – just barely made it hehehe. We are doing are best to stay warm here in the tundra. Unfortunately had to go out for supplies and some last minute Christmas gifts this morning – at one point was pretty sure my nose and fingers had fallen off. A quick look at the forecast (-22 windchill currently) indicates that it will warm up for Christmas. Stay safe, stay warm and most of all, have a wonderful Christmas.

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    1. You are always welcome Lisa! I can still virtually smell the peanut butter and cinnamon. Stay safe if you have to travel over Christmas and best wishes for another wonderful new year filled with all kinds of colorful vegetables and fruit!

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    1. Thank you Donna! Spotting that Oriole really put a bow on the day having been able to photograph the rare Social Flycatcher that was hanging out in the same area about 15 minutes earlier. Probably need to give a lot of credit to the Social as that was really the only reason we made our way there and noticed they orange burst sitting high in the tree as I was heading back to Linda to tell her the good news. Appreciate you coming by and for keeping my hopes up with your Tundra posts – only 8 more days left to find one.

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    1. Thank you Sam, you called it perfectly. Today, Ron and I managed to tin another member of the “hood” family – after a tremendous amount of effort by the way – look for that post to be coming in oh, about 9 months hehehe. Sorry for the late response, been a whirlwind of traveling up to now.

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        1. Ron had to head back yesterday (unfortunately on the FAA catastrophe day) so I could actually relax a bit. Ron can only spare a week down here so we make sure we use every bit of light to get his counts up. Managed to tin a very nice semi-rarity today (has shown up in the same spot the last three years, but not really a “resident” here). Missed on some others, but as of Jan 7th I’m well over 100 for the new year!!

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