Birder's Guide

AUG 2018

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 24 of 35

B lack-backed Oriole ( Icterus abeielii ), also known as Abeille's Oriole, is endemic to central Mexico. It is a short-distance migrant that spends the summer in riparian corridors on the Mexican Plateau and moves south to wooded areas in highlands, such as around Mexico City, for the winter. Interestingly, this species and Black-headed Grosbeak are the only species of bird known to routinely eat monarch butterflies at their wintering concentrations. The first record of a Black-backed Oriole in the ABA Area occurred in the Tijuana River Valley in San Diego County, California, in 2000 and 2001. The California Bird Records Committee at first accepted the record as a wild bird because it appeared to have migrated and returned to the same spot the following summer; but later it was found to be wintering, and the com- mittee reversed its decision, instead concluding the bird was likely an escapee from the wild bird market across the river in Mexico. With their big, white wing-patches and orange facial markings, Black-backed and Bullock's orioles appear somewhat similar, and, indeed, Black-backed has been considered a subspe- cies of Bullock's in the past. Adult male Black-backs differ in having much more extensive black above: on the auriculars (cheeks), rear flanks, and rump. Females and immatures are very difficult if not impossible to identify in the field, and, thus, if one showed up in the ABA Area it would probably be mistaken for one of its more expected relatives. Bullock's and Black-backed orioles interbreed occasionally in Durango, but, according to DNA evidence, Black-backed is most closely related to Baltimore. Not only that, but Black- backed Oriole is now thought to have arisen from a population of Baltimore Orioles that gave up long-distance migration and took to shorter movements instead. All three species were formerly lumped by the American Ornithological Society as Northern Oriole. Of course, many people were (and still are) skeptical of the provenance of this bird and suspect it isn't likely to be accepted by the Pennsylvania Ornithological Records Committee and, subsequently, the ABA's Checklist Committee. Much discussion occurred about the im- probability of a Black-backed Oriole showing up in winter in Pennsylvania without human assistance. Only a few instances have been found of this species occurring as a caged bird in Mexico. One ornithologist noted that, "Members of this genus, even the non-migratory lineages, are prone to wandering and have managed to colonize most of the islands of the Caribbean Sea area." (K. Omland pers. comm.) After B.B. left Pennsylvania on April 11, 2017, he apparently flew to Massachusetts and wandered briefly into northern Connecticut. The Massachusetts Avian Records Committee has rejected the sighting as likely an escapee, but as this article was going to press, Pennsylvania's committee announced it had accepted the record. The ABA Checklist Committee will now al- most certainly weigh in. 23 August 2018 | Birder's Guide to Conservation & Community who own the house that they are stand- ing at have been amazing. This morning they supplied coffee and doughnuts to the birders. All Dick and I have to do is provide the seed, oranges, and feeder. Even then, the birders have been very generous with donations." Tom Binder replied, "Good morning, Susan. Thanks for your kind words. This has been a wonderful, rich experience for Linda and me. All of the people have been very kind and warm and enthusiastic which, in turn, warms our hearts. But we couldn't do this without lots of sup- port from Mike and Jan Slater. Getting coffee ready for today's visitors!" Many birders brought thank you gifts and presents for the Hybkis and Binders. Cookies and birdseed were popular gifts. Since red grapes, raw peanuts, and or- ange halves were the bird's favorite foods, I provided both families with these sup- plies and also helped by filling feeders when the snow got deep. My wife, Jan, baked a lot of cookies, pumpkin bread, and other treats to share with both the hosts and the visitors. Seabird McKeon of Code 5 Design gave all four of them a Black-backed Oriole T-shirt. Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, which isn't too far away, gave them gift memberships. The oriole stakeout was a great experi - ence for kids. Many young birders came with their parents to see B.B. Alison Fetterman, who brought her son, Gus, wrote in an email to me: This was a spectacular event last win- ter that provided me with the oppor- tunity to bring my then-eight-year-old son to see a truly rare bird. He has been a birder and naturalist since he could use binoculars, and it was a true pleasure to be able to bring him to such a supportive community and positive atmosphere. The fact that so many people were gathered to see one bird, and so welcoming to a young boy, will forever to be imprinted in his mind. Attached is a photo of the crowd, with my happy boy on the ground (in the green coat on opening photo, page 19) on the afternoon of Feb. 11. Photo © Michael Slater

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Birder's Guide - AUG 2018