18 May 2010 – Orchard Oriole

The Noble Research Center continues to surprise. This morning I found a second-year, male Orchard Oriole (fat = 1) that met its end in nearly the exact spot on one of the west side alcoves where I found a female Painted Bunting the other day. Yes, here is one more Neotropical migrant that survived the challenges of juvenile development, learned how to find enough food to prepare for migration, traveled hundreds (thousands?) of miles south to stake out a new home in some tropical forest, prepared for migration again, quite likely flew across the Gulf of Mexico, pushed its way farther north following an innate imperative to compete for a breeding territory and hopefully sire a brood of equally impressive offspring . . . only to fly headlong into a window in a funny-looking building on an urban campus in Stillwater, OK.

Of course, one rather grim benefit of collecting dead birds from window kills is the rare opportunity it allows for close study of unusual species and/or plumages. In this case, I don’t believe I’ve ever held an Orchard Oriole (maybe once at Powdermill Nature Reserve), and I know I’ve never collected a window-killed specimen. Even more unusual, this is a second-year male that seems to be wearing a lot more chestnut than (badge of mature males) than illustrated for this species in the various field guides here in the office. He was quite a beauty, and perhaps on his way to being a truly dominant and successful male oriole.