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The strong orange coloration of our bird's face, underparts, and tail is seemingly incongruent considering the copious white stuff on the ground in the picture's background. Indeed, our bird can really only be an oriole, but they're not known as snow-loving birds. Despite our shock of looking in the backyard in winter and seeing an oriole, we shouldn't let that surprise keep us from correctly identifying the bird.
We can immediately rule out the two yellow orioles, Scott's and Audubon's, and Orchard Oriole, as those species never exhibit any strong orange coloration. Our bird's face pattern rules out another species, Baltimore Oriole, which never shows a distinct facial mask combined with a throat patch. Altamira and Spot-breasted orioles can be eliminated by those species' more-extensive black masks and yellow-orange upper wing bars. The vagrant Black-vented Oriole does not sport wing bars in any plumage. That leaves us with two seemingly dissimilar ABA-area breeding species – Hooded and Bullock's – and a Mexican vagrant, Streak-backed. Bullock's is the most likely of the three to be found in winter in snowy areas and the apparent pale belly – or, at least, flanks – makes that species an attractive option as the identity of our mystery bird. Unfortunately, a closer look shows that the face is considerably brighter orange than any other orange visible on the bird, a feature not particularly typical of Bullock's. The same feature is also a strike or two against an identification as Hooded Oriole and the last nail in that coffin is our bird's strong and straight bill – quite different from Hooded's thin, decurved beak.
That should leave us only with an outlandish identity, considering the winter wonderland scene! But, with a winter Wisconsin specimen of Streak-backed Oriole, can a live one be completely out of the question? Well, looking at our bird's back, we can see dark, arrow-shaped centers to the individual feathers, a perfectly good feature to confirm our surprising identification engendered by the other features mentioned above. I took this picture of a Streak-backed Oriole (an adult female?) in Loveland, Larimer Co., CO, on 9 December 2007. The bird represented the state's not-unexpected first record. Thanks to the Koglers for hosting the bird and the hundreds of birders coming to see it.
The following people (listed by submission date beginning with the earliest) submitted correct answers for the August Bird Photo Quiz—Streak-backed Oriole:
The following list shows the number of submissions for each species guessed.
The photo and answer for this quiz were supplied by Tony Leukering.