Readers’ wildlife photos

January 17, 2020 • 7:45 am

Today we feature a couple of photos from the past month or so, all sent by reader Christopher Moss. His captions are indented. The first pictures are of a Mystery Bird.

I’m stumped with this one! Starling sized, thin beak (unlike a grosbeak or finch beak), yellow breast and vent, with a whitish belly. No white lines around the eyes like the yellow breasted chat (and the chat doesn’t have the white edging to the primary wing feathers this one has). The best I can think of is that it might be a female northern oriole, Icterus galbula (aka Baltimore oriole, or Bullock’s oriole for the western race). If it is a northern oriole, it really ought to be in Florida or Mexico by now. But then again, I also have a flock of goldfinches that ought to have gone off to their trailer parks in Florida like good Canadian “snowbirds” by now! Here she is:

Readers, can you help?

Vagrant Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) in Nova Scotia, where their appearance is rare:

I finally managed to catch both Cardinals in one frame, but they wouldn’t sit together on the jury-rigged bird table I put up in haste for the shyer birds. Below is a Cardinal with the Northern Oriole, and a close-up of the female oriole. I also had a pair of white-breasted nuthatches doing acrobatics on a hanging feeder but they wouldn’t consent to a photo!

We have four kinds of woodpecker in the garden: Hairy, Downy, Pileated and the Flicker. This one is a female Hairy (Leuconotopicus villosus), and she gets her name from the little tuft of yellow feathers above the beak. The male looks much the same except for a red patch on the crown of his head.

Finally, an unusual mutant mammal:

A better shot of our piebald White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Looks like she’s been stealing from the birds!

9 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Regarding the first 2 pictures, not 100% sure, but looks like an immature female Baltimore oriole.
    Incidentally, gold finches stay around my place all year (Central Ontario) in great numbers. Saw a flock of 25+ just a few days ago.

    1. I think it’s an orchard Oriole. I had one at my feeders last year and at first I couldn’t identify it.

      1. I believe the Orchard oriole female has a uniformly yellow breast and belly, whereas this one has an orange-yellow breast and vent, with a whitish belly between. But then again, I’m no expert!
        The poor Hairy panicked when the piebald deer came running back after I refreshed the bird table, and flew into the window I took the photos through. I went out and picked her up and she is now clinging to the flyscreen in a disoriented fashion. At least she’s up out of the way of predators. We’re having a dreadful snowstorm with near whiteout at times, so I didn’t want to leave her lying in the snow. I’ll keep checking on her.

  2. Baltimore and Bullock’s Orioles constitute the only example I can think of of two bird species that were considered separate, then lumped together (because they hybridize quite a lot–renamed Northern Oriole), then split again (in late 80s I think). Your bird is surely one of these but determining which can be tricky as young females of the two species can look a lot alike. I’m not an oriole expert and don’t have my bird guides with me so I’ll reserve judgement for the time being. Sometimes the “rare” species that doesn’t normally even occur in an area can be more likely in winter than the “common” summer species that departs for the winter. This is true of hummingbirds. From late fall through the winter a hummer in the east is much more likely to be a western vagrant than the common summer resident ruby-throated. Regardless of which species your oriole is, it must be a very rare bird. Have you contacted anyone in your area about it? I’m sure local birders would love to know about it. You could get a lot of visitors, though, especially if it’s a Bullock’s. You’ll have to decide whether that is really what you want before publicizing the bird!

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