Mystery Oriole

The oriole below was caught at McGill Bird Observatory in Montreal, Quebec on May 21, 2008 during the course of a standardized migration monitoring program. To date, only Baltimore Orioles have been banded at MBO (more than 160 over the past four years), but while they show considerable variation between and among age and sex classes (see the MBO photo library), we have never before seen one that looks anything like this.  The condition of the plumage clearly indicates it is a second year bird, and the amount of black on the face would suggest it is a male - at least for a pure Baltimore Oriole.  But is there something else in this bird's history?  The facial pattern is suggestive of a second-year male Orchard Oriole, though the black is more extensive on this bird than typically observed - but perhaps a hybrid would look like this?  Or, considering that the wing molt is extremely limited and the face is typically the first area to acquire black feathers, is this just a young male pure Baltimore Oriole that has undergone a particularly limited molt?  Wing chord was 92 mm. Comments about this bird are welcome by e-mail at  All photos by Barbara Frei.

Click here for other highlights from Week 8 of MBO's 2008 Spring Migration Monitoring Program


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