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This page contains 4 reader comments. Click here to view (latest Fri 08/06/07 10:36).


Baltimore Oriole (Photo: Ally McLean).

Any notion that only "everyday garden birds" visit peanut feeders are instantly dispelled by pictures that are causing some discussion amongst the birding community. The pictures taken at Huna, John O' Groats, Caithness, show one of the most unusual, and eye-catching, birds recorded in Britain this year - a Baltimore Oriole.

As the name suggests, it shouldn't have been within a few thousand of miles of the northern tip of the Scottish mainland, but serenading its mate in the woodlands of North America.

A number have crossed the Atlantic before, including a well-watched individual in Oxfordshire in the winter of 2003/2004, but this one has made history by being the first adult male in full breeding plumage to have been recorded anywhere in Europe.

But this unique occurrence hasn't sparked a mass dash to John O' Groats, because news of its appearance broke after the bird had gone. Unfortunately it was only present from 24th-27th May.

"We have only been putting out peanuts in our garden for a few months and normally nothing out of the ordinary comes to feed so I was astonished when this very colourful bird appeared", said finder Ally McLean.

"But I couldn't identify it and it was only through taking photographs and video and showing them to people with more experience of birds that we found out what it was - but by then it had disappeared."


Baltimore Oriole (Photo: Ally McLean).

Explaining how the oriole came to be in northern Scotland at this time isn't simple, as there are various possibilities, explained Martin Scott of the RSPB.

"Normally an American bird in Britain in springtime is assumed to be a bird that came across the Atlantic the previous autumn and is now migrating northwards, but on the wrong side of the ocean.

"But lately there has been a series of reports of American species in Scotland, giving rose to speculation that some special weather circumstances have caused a spring crossing.

"Maybe birds arriving at an eastern North American location such as Newfoundland have 'overshot' the coast and on heading out to sea have ended up being carried across by the recent strong westerly winds."

Another possibility is that it crossed the ocean on a ship - like another American songbird, a White-throated Sparrow, that was seen in the port of Southampton after the arrival of a liner from New York recently.

Over the past few days other North American birds recorded in Scotland include a Dark-eyed Junco on St Kilda, 100 miles out into the Atlantic from the mainland west coast, Baird's Sandpiper and Pectoral Sandpipers on the Isle of Tiree, Argyll, a Pectoral Sandpiper on North Uist in the Outer Hebrides and a Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Rattray Head, Aberdeenshire.

Related pages

Baltimore Oriole Baltimore Oriole
Highland Highland


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The information in this article was believed correct at the time of writing. BirdGuides accepts no responsibility for errors, or for any consequences of acting on information in the article. The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily shared by BirdGuides Ltd.

hide section Reader comments (4)

#1
I thought there was a record of an adult male in Hook in Pembrokeshire in about 1970. It is recorded in rare birds in Wales and was hopping around on our lawn when we lived there. Sadly I wasn't born at the time!
   paul downes, 01/06/07 22:44Report inappropriate post Report 
#2
I confess to overlooking the record of a male at Hook, Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshirre over 6 - 7 May, 1970, partly through circumstances requiring this report to be produced quickly. On checking the relevant BBRC report (Vol 64, P365) I note the age of that bird is not indicated, but Ian Wallace in his book Birdwatching in the Seventies refers to how "an adult male Baltimore Oriole dazzled its finders at Haverfordwest..." That does not necessarily mean it was in full summer plumage like the John o' Groats individual, but, whatever its state, the bird made a big impression, clearly. Incidentally, there was also a male on Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, over 11-13 May, 1968, which was referred to originally as an adult, but later (Vol 76. P527) BBRC stated it age was subsequentluy considered to be "first-winter." Brian Unwin
   Brian Unwin, 02/06/07 12:17Report inappropriate post Report 
#3
Did you also overlook the adult male at Beachy Head, East Sussex on 5 and 6 October 1962? The possibility that it might have been an escape from captivity could not be excluded at the time (see Harber, D.D. 1963. Baltimore Oriole in Sussex. British Birds 56:464-5 and Harber, D.D. and Swaine, C.M. 1963. Report on rare birds in Great Britain in 1962. British Birds 56:393-409) and the surviving observer has subsequently distanced himself from the record, although BBRC were not prepared to overturn it on his say so alone. So I'd say you were correct to discount it even if the official record doesn't:-)
   Richard Fairbank, 08/06/07 08:35Report inappropriate post Report 
#4
You say that, "as the name suggests", the bird should be in North America but the bird's name actually derives from the black and orange colours on the arms of the second Lord Baltimore — an English colonist who held the now extinct Irish title of Baron Baltimore, of Baltimore in the County Longford. The bird has no specific connection with the city in Maryland that was named after the baron.
   Andrew Haynes, 08/06/07 10:36Report inappropriate post Report 

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