Bullock's Oriole at Bethlehem, Northampton County, PA
This oriole appeared at the feeders in the back yard of Steve Wolfe around the turn of the new year. Not sure what
it was, Steve consulted some of the local experts who came to his yard and identified it as a Bullock's Oriole, the third
documented record for Pennsylvania. Steve graciously opened his yard to all birders to come and see his rarity.
Almost immediately some questions were raised as to whether this bird might be a hybrid. While just about
everything on this bird looks right for a Bullock's Oriole, including the dark eyeline, the bright supercilium and malar,
and the sawtoothed appearance of the white median covert bar, the overall appearance of the auriculars appears dusky in some
photos, as can be seen vaguely in the second and perhaps even the third photo below. (For pictures that clearly
show a dusky auricular region, take a look at Dave DeReamus's
website, where he has posted two excellent pictures taken by Steve Wolfe himself.)
In the first picture below, the bird's face appears bright overall as one would expect for Bullock's.
But is it a trick of the light? During my own observation of the bird, the subject was not very cooperative, appearing
three times for only thirty to sixty seconds each over two and a half hours. In those brief encounters, I
did not notice the auriculars as appearing darker or duller than expected, but I did do most of my viewing in high-contrast
lighting, and for brief intervals. That being said, everything I saw that day pointed to Bullock's Oriole.
Eventually, comments about this individual were solicited from some of the world's top birders, and the general consensus
was that it probably is a pure Bullock's Oriole, but many could not decide if it was a young male in delayed molt (a first
year male should probably have more extensive black on the throat by January) or an adult female showing some male characteristics.
As it turned out, as of mid-March, the bird was still present and almost no change in plumage was discernable.
I believe the bird to be an adult female Bullock's Oriole. Copious photographs and descriptions have been sent to PORC
(thanks primarily to Dave DeReamus), who will ultimately make a determination whether to add this record to Pennsylvania's
collection of Bullock's Orioles.