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Bright orange, black and white usually mean that we are dealing with an oriole. Sure, American Robin, Varied Thrush, Black-headed Grosbeak have these colors, but not with the same bright orange shown by our bird. Within most of the ABA area, we aren't presented with significant challenges in identifying orioles, at least in comparison with, say, birding in Mexico. But identifying orioles is not always easy. Orioles exhibit considerable variation – age variation, sex variation, geographic variation. And, all variability can lead to a lot of headaches, particularly to the south of the US-Mexico border. So what do we do when presented with an unknown oriole?
The first clue is to study the bill, which is usually the best way to begin to identify orioles. Wouldn't you know it, we can't see the bill! Well, the coloration is helpful. The bright orange eliminates things like Scott's, Audubon's, and Orchard Oriole. Let's take a close look at the pattern of white on the wings, which is one of the few things that we can see well. Most male orioles have white edging that includes the tertials, secondaries, and primaries. On our bird, however, there is a distinct black gap to the edging of most of the secondaries. This creates a bold white triangle on the tertials and some secondary edges. This pattern is only shown by Spot-breasted Oriole. Also note that from what we can see of the greater coverts, they are uniformly black. Other similar orioles have white tips to the greater coverts that create a bold white wing bar. While this does varies by age and sex, any Altimira, Hooded, or Streak-backed Oriole that was this bright orange, would show at least some white on the greater coverts.
This Spot-breasted Oriole was photographed in Kendall, Florida in April of 2006.
The following people (listed by submission date beginning with the earliest) submitted correct answers for the May Bird Photo Quiz—Spot-breasted Oriole:
The following list shows the number of submissions for each species guessed.
The photo and answer for this quiz were supplied by Chris Wood.