A hooded oriole was spotted visiting a feeder in Sidney, by resident Stan Coe. The photo has been flagged on the BC Rare Bird Alert website. (Photo courtesy of Stan Coe)

A hooded oriole was spotted visiting a feeder in Sidney, by resident Stan Coe. The photo has been flagged on the BC Rare Bird Alert website. (Photo courtesy of Stan Coe)

Rare bird spotted visiting a Vancouver Island backyard feeder

Hooded orioles are generally found in hotter climates, local bird watcher says

You never know what kind of flying friend you might draw in, just by adding a touch of sweetness to your yard.

A rare bird was spotted visiting a feeder in Sidney by resident Stan Coe, who shared a photo with the Peninsula News Review.

The photo was published in the paper, and local birders quickly realized the bird had been misidentified as an American Goldfinch. Barbara Begg, a bird watcher from North Saanich, identified the bird as a rare hooded oriole.

“I think there’s been about 26 records of this bird in B.C., and certainly not many on the Island. I can think of about four or five around the Greater Victoria area,” said Begg. “I spoke with the fellow who took the photo, and went over to take a look, but did not see this particular one myself.”

The photo has been flagged on the BC Rare Bird Alert website, noting the bird was visiting Coe’s property from Feb. 16 to March 17, but has not been seen again since.

“A hooded oriole’s normal range is way down in extreme southwestern parts of the U.S. and Mexico,” said Begg. “Of course with global warming, temperatures are changing and I think more southern species are drifting northward. It happens all over Canada.”

Begg noted that birds who migrate are more likely to get turned around, and can sometimes lose their bearings and fly off course. Hooded orioles tend to breed in western parts of Nevada, California and Texas, and in the winter move to southern parts of Mexico.

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“The last time I saw a hooded oriole was in 1988,” said Begg, who has been studying birds for about 30 years.

The bird spotted in Sidney was likely a young male, said Bregg. She noted this by its black bib and the intensity of its feather colouring. Hooded orioles are bright orange, with black and white wings, and a black tail. The males are more likely to have a black patch of feathers below the beak.

The Bullock’s oriole, a relative to the hooded oriole, is more commonly found nesting on Vancouver Island. Begg said to tell the two species apart, there are a couple of subtle differences: Bullock’s have a black eye line that extends quite far out from their eyes, and hooded orioles have a more downward curved beak.

The best way to attract one of these birds to your yard, is to put out a hummingbird syrup feeder, or include flowers such as Red Hot Pokers in your garden, Bregg said.

“They mainly eat grubs and nectar from flowers, but will also eat the syrup mix in feeders,” she added.

To view more rare bird sightings in B.C., visit bcbirdalert.blogspot.com.

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