Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2009-17

Common name:

Baltimore Oriole

Scientific name: Icterus galbula
Date: 9/18/09
Time: 8:30AM
Length of time observed: 2-3 minutes over the coarse of 5-6 observations over a 3 hour period
Number: 1
Age: 1st year?
Sex: male?
Location: Fish Springs NWR
County: Juab
Distance to bird: Between 25-75 feet
Optical equipment: B&l customs
Weather: Mostly Sunny
Light Conditions: Good
Description:        Size of bird: Oriole size
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Oriole shape
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Orange-ish
(Description:)            Bill Type: Somewhat long and pointed
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Carl Ingwell first spotted an oriole while we worked the north trees of the residence area at Fish Springs NWR.  Carl saw the bird fly towards Jay's house and said the bird was quite orange overall, which Jeff and I both agreed with after later observing the bird.  We decided to make an effort track down the bird since it's pretty late for Bullock's Oriole to be in northern Utah.   

Anyway, the bird was quite orange overall, but certainly not an adult male oriole orange of any species. Because we saw the bird flying away or overhead several times, we first noticed that it had a noticeably orange rump (and slightly less orange tail - was brightest towards rump, but had some orange coloration across the entire tail when seen flying away) that contrasted with the back. I never could get a good color on the back except maybe it was grayish-green?...but I was able to see that the bird had short dull streaks on the back. They were not immediately obvious from a distance. They were not nearly as big, bold, numerous or sharp as seen in a female Bullock's Oriole. The other feature we observed near the beginning was the bird had rather orange undertail coverts and appeared orange overall on the underside. In more detailed later observations, the orange was brightest (near the color of an adult male) on the chest of the bird...gradually fading towards a dull orange on the belly before becoming a brighter orange towards the undertail coverts as previously mentioned. It was more grayish to grayish/orange on the lower flanks just above the legs...but where the legs met the underside, it was a dull orange. The bird had a very small white chin. I saw a dark flecking or two around this white chin whereas Carl said he saw substantially more dark flecking around the throat of the bird. The head of the bird was overall orange, but more of a dull orange than the chest of the bird. However, there was a substantial amount of dark fleckings around much of the head...particularly on the crown, and we're somewhat less certain of the extent, but there was at least some in the vicinity of the eye and on the auriculars. Carl noted a bright silvery bill, and I didn't see anything to disprove that. The bird had two distinct wing bars (the lower was white and the upper one was not noted colorwise)...the bird also had noticeable white edges to the tertials in particular, and to a lesser extent the secondaries that contrasted with the much darker wing (color of wing was not noted by me).    (see photos)

I'll be honest in that I'm still little unsure of the sex and age of this bird between the back pattern, the fleckings on the head and throat/chin and the underside coloration as I'm not completely sure what an adult female Baltimore Oriole should have vs. a young male Baltimore Oriole...although I think a young male Baltimore Oriole still fits this bird best...
Song or call & method of delivery: The bird was heard doing a Bullock's/Baltimore Oriole 'chatter' twice, but I can't really describe it any more than that...I haven't heard Bullock's and Baltimore side by side to say that it was too low or too high pitch for one or the other...or too rapid or slow for one species or the other. 
Behavior: It was rather skittish, and it did not allow close approach making viewing the bird quite difficult. The bird was observed as low as 5 ft off the ground to perching on exposed branches at the tops of trees...often though it would fly as we approached and we would subsequently take 30+ minutes to refind

After spending 3+ hours of obtaining brief and/or poor looks at the bird, Jeff played tape to see if it would respond.  He started playing Baltimore Oriole after we had spent 45 minutes looking for the bird without any luck, and after the second or third time playing the tape, the bird flew into the trees above and 'chattered' twice...the bird perched and that's when photos were obtained in the trees to the north of Jay's house.  The bird then flew to the trees lining the road into the houses (that's when Jeff took his photo) and then the bird disappeared into one of those trees. Jeff then tried Bullock's Oriole tape about three times and the bird never showed itself.  He then played Baltimore Oriole again, and the bird did not respond after playing the tape two more which point we decided that it was time to move on with our day. 
Habitat: Trees at the residence area at the refuge
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Adult Male Bullock's Oriole - no clean face pattern, no bright wing patch

Adult Female and Juvenile Female Bullock's Oriole - no dark bold streaking on the back, the the orange color extending down the whole underside and dark flecking on head also eliminates females

First year male Bullock's Oriole, the lack of a noticeable dark chin patch, the presence of a white chin patch, and the orange extending through the belly region, and the brighter orange rump.

Bullock's X Baltimore Oriole - Sibley states female and young Baltimore Orioles are indistinguishable from this hybrid

Orchard Oriole - too orange on the underside for a female, lack of black throat patch eliminates young male and not the rusty-orange of an adult male and bill too big for this species

Hooded Oriole - too orange on the underside for a female Hooded Oriole...lack of black throat patch and dark fleckings on head eliminate male Hooded Oriole

Scott's Oriole - not black head and throat for adult male scott's...too orange on the underside for a female Scott's Oriole or a young male Scott's Oriole

Streak-backed Oriole - dark fleckings on head and small white chin patch should eliminate young male Streak-backed Oriole
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
dozens between upstate new york, wisconsin, indiana and texas
References consulted: References: Sibley and online photos

Some helpful photos online include...
"Google search"
Description from: Notes made later
Observer: Colby Neuman
Observer's address: 1713 W Pacific Ave Spokane WA 99201
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Jeff Bilsky and Carl Ingwell
Date prepared: 9/30/09
Additional material: Photos
Additional_Comments: Poor photos will be emailed to Milt for additional material.