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This month’s quiz bird has orangey-yellow underparts and a black tail. Additionally, at least the underside of the head is black. A fine point that many might have missed are the bluish legs. While we might have hunted through various passerine families looking for a yellow-bellied, black-headed, and black-tailed bird, the bluish legs rules out all but nuthatches, Cactus Wren, vireos, and orioles. And the bird is obviously not a vireo or a nuthatch, nor is it a Cactus Wren. Ah, leg color; my favorite overlooked field mark. Our bird’s longish and thin bill can certainly provide a confirming character for the family to which leg color took us.
A brief glance at the wing might suggest that it sports a large white panel, a la Bullock’s Oriole, but since we’re looking at those greater coverts just about, edge on, we should be cautious about accepting that appearance as fact. Looking at the tail confirms that caution, as Bullock’s Oriole exhibits a mostly orange tail. The tail also provides us with almost all the rest of the information that we need to correctly identify our quiz bird, with the caveat, of course, that there are plenty more species of orioles to consider if we were not restricted to the list of ABA-area species.
The strongly graduated tail and extensive pale tips should leave us only two options, Spot-breasted and Hooded. However, any plumage of Spot-breasted Oriole that has a black tail, should also be much more orange below and have, uh, black spots on the breast.
I took this picture – specifically for this quiz – of an adult male Hooded Oriole of the western subspecies nelsoni at Cantamar, Baja California, Mexico, on 30 December 2010. Adult males of more easterly races that occur in the ABA Area are much more orange than this.
The following people (listed by submission date beginning with the earliest) submitted correct answers for the May Bird Photo Quiz—Hooded 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.