Black-backed Oriole decision

Black-backed Oriole

Photo by Margaret Bowden ||

On 7-8 May 2017, a Black-backed Oriole visited the feeders at a private residence in Sutton, Massachusetts. The homeowner noticed that the bird was different from the other orioles and secured photographs. The homeowner circulated the photos to local birders a week after the bird had departed, at which point the bird was identified as a Black-backed Oriole. This individual is almost certainly the same individual that visited a feeder in Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania from January 31-April 10, 2017. This conclusion is based on the fact that both individuals possess anomalous facial markings. Both individuals have a broad pale patch over the left eye, a very small lower eye arc on the right eye, and some whitish coloration in the lores just in front of the right eye. Typically Black-backed Orioles have a wider lower eye arc and are orange throughout the lores. The large white patch above the left eye is particularly anomalous for Black-backed Oriole and further confirms that these two sightings represent the same individual. Adding further to this epic tale, Patrick Dugan viewed a Black-backed Oriole in Stamford, Connecticut on 14 May 2017.

Photos by Margaret Bowden

The Massachusetts Avian Records Committee recently reviewed this record and voted to not accept it. While the committee agreed that the individual was indeed a Black-backed Oriole, all committee members felt that a captive origin could not be ruled out given 1) the Black-backed Oriole is a short-distance migrant, 2) there is a lack of history of vagrancy in this species, and most importantly 3) this bird can be found in the caged bird trade. For example, see this video of a hand-fed Black-backed Oriole in Mexico.