Even though it’s only February, we might already have a winner for the least expected ABA Area vagrant for 2017. On January 31st a resident of Berks County, Pennsylvania, noticed and photographed a strange oriole in their yard. The bird was posted to the Advanced Bird ID Facebook group where it was quickly identified as a Black-backed Oriole, a central Mexican endemic. Pending acceptance this is a potential 1st ABA Area record.
The bird is being seen at 20 and 21 Indiana Ave, Sinking Spring, Berks County, Pennsylvania. This is just northwest of Philadelphia. The homeowners are open to visitors provided those visitors follow these VERY IMPORTANT RULES.
• Visiting hours 7:30 am to 4 pm only
• Parking, for now on Indiana St.
• Be courteous, don’t block driveways or mail boxes.
• Please sign the Logbook the homeowners are in knowing who comes to see the bird and where they come from.
• Please don’t stand right in front of the house to keep from scaring the Bird away from the feeder by the front window! The bird is shy!
• Please stay on the sidewalks and don’t enter people’s yards.
• Respect the neighborhood’s privacy and property.
Black-backed Oriole is a central Mexican endemic, formerly considered to be conspecific with Baltimore Oriole and still occasionally treated as conspecific with Bullock’s Oriole. In its normal range it is a short-distant migrant, with some pattern of vagrancy.
Notably, this is not the first incidence of this species in the ABA Area. In 2000, a Black-backed Oriole was present from April-June in San Diego, California, returning the next summer. That bird was accepted by that state’s Bird Records Committee until it was refound in its preferred eucalyptus grove in January of 2002, at which point the committee felt it had reason to suspect that it was an escaped cage bird and removed it from the list in as much as its status could be determined. Many observers believed that this species was still a good candidate to occur in the ABA Area, though perhaps none would have predicted Pennsylvania. More information on the California bird is available here.
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