There was a great deal of excitement in our neck of the woods, west of Ottawa in eastern Ontario, this week. Local birdwatchers in the small town of Pakenham, Ontario were fortunate enough to spot an unusual visitor while out birding this past week. Ray Holland and Richard Waters were observing a number of house sparrows in a tree when they spotted a bird they believed to be a Baltimore Oriole. After double-checking their field guides using photographs they had taken, they determined the bird to be a Bullock’s Oriole. These birds are typically only found in the western regions of North and Central America, which makes this sighting so special for us locally.

Where to find the Bullock’s Oriole

Other than these rare sightings in eastern Ontario, these birds are found in the western regions of the United States during the summer months before heading into Central America during the winter. These birds love wide open woodlands that feature a number of tall trees, including parklands as they forage for caterpillars, fruits, spiders and nectar.

 

Identification

These medium-sized songbirds are equipped with a long tail and straight, pointed bill. The male’s colouring is mainly that of an orange plumage, sometimes with a hint of yellow as well.   Male’s also have a black back, throat, top of head and map and usually are seen with a couple of small wing bars on each wing. Females on the other hand, are paler in comparison, sporting a gray-brown overall colouring and lack many of the black feathers seen in their male counterparts. These birds look very similar to the Baltimore Oriole; in fact, the two species were once considered the same and referred to as the Northern Oriole. After extensive molecular studies, however, it was found that they two species are not very closely related.

Vocals

Both sexes of the species sing, but each sex has a song of their own. While the two songs are somewhat similar, the female’s song has a slightly different ending and usually features harsher-sounding notes. The song itself is a series of rich whistled notes filled in with a number of interspersed rattles.