Illustration by Peter Burke
This slim oriole has a fondness for palms. Polytypic. Length 8" (20 cm).
Identification Long, strongly graduated tail. Thin, noticeably downcurved bill, blue-gray on the basal half lower mandible. Adult male: a crisp black bib, face, and back contrasting with the orange or yellow-orange lower back and rump. Black wings, with black shoulders, 2 white wing bars, crisp white fringes on flight feathers. Tail black. Adult female: olive above; yellowish or dull orange below, with dusky wash on flanks and belly. Two dull wing bars per wing, white fringes on flight feathers. Immature male: like female, but by spring shows a neat black bib and lores.
Geographic Variation Five subspecies in 2 groups: the cucullatus group east of Big Bend, Texas, is more orange, with a shorter bill and more black on forehead; the nelsoni group, found in New Mexico and west, shows yellow-orange, with a longer, more downcurved bill.
Similar Species The male is similar in pattern to the altamira oriole, but is slimmer, has a much slimmer bill, and shows a black shoulder and white upper wing bar.
Voice Call: a whistled wheet and a short chatter. Also a chut, usually by juveniles, similar to call of the orchard oriole. Song: a quick and abrupt series of springy, nasal, or whiny notes, lacking the sweet whistled sounds of other orioles.
Status and Distribution Breeding: open areas with scattered trees, riparian areas, and suburban and park settings. Migration: arrives during March, departs in August. Winter: mainly in Mexico. Vagrant: casual to British Columbia and Washington, annual in Oregon; accidental in Ontario and southern Yukon.
Population The species is expanding north in California, but populations have decreased in southern Texas.
—From the National Geographic book Complete Birds of North America, 2006
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