Shirley’s Bullock’s Oriole: Rare Bird and Great Birders


The Bullock’s Oriole isn’t supposed to be in Florida. It is supposed to be in the western United States and Mexico, like the Hooded Oriole that I wrote about a few weeks ago. So when a birding friend encouraged me to make a phone call and visit the private residence of a sweet lady who was willing to share her rare bird, I jumped at the opportunity.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t get to photograph the bird. The Bullock’s Oriole vocalized a couple of times, and I got to see a brief glimpse of orange feathers as the bird darted in the treetop, but I didn’t get a good picture.

Turns out, the birders can be just as fun as the rare birds that they chase. This homeowner, named Shirley, has a wonderful bird-friendly yard. She planted nectar-producing plants like Cape Honeysuckle, which grows up to provide shelter as well as food. She also planted berry-producing small trees and hedges. Shirley put out chairs and a birding book, teaching everybody who passed by about her orange-winged wonder. Neighbors out walking their dogs learned that the “Orioles” are more than a baseball team. More advanced birders examined bird’s range map and feather patterns. Turns out this Bullock’s Oriole has returned to Shirley’s yard for at least three years in a row now. That’s what you get when you create a wildlife-friendly habitat!

Shirley has an interesting bartering system. She trades with the best birders in the state, offering an opportunity to see the Bullock’s Oriole in exchange for a list of the birds found in her backyard birding paradise. What happens when good birders stand in one place watching for a rarity to pop out? They tally up species…lots of species…over 42 on one morning, as Shirley proudly reported.

So Shirley, as promised, here are my photos of birds in your wonderful yard. Thank you for sharing with us!

Black Vulture
Black Vulture: A couple of them stood guard in Shirley’s tall pine trees while other circled overhead. She lives near a lake, so we had lots of wading bird and lake bird fly-overs
Northern Mockingbird
Northern Mockingbird. He posed at the top of the honeysuckle wondering what all the fuss was about.
Prairie Warbler
Prairie Warbler. Made a brief appearance in the honeysuckle showing off his yellow stomach. You know springtime is coming when the warbler colors brighten!
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Shirley’s cape honeysuckle is clearly a favorite with these tiny nectar-sipping birds. This is a first-year male whose gorget is starting to fill in. Look at those beautiful spots of red glistening in the afternoon sun!
White-eyed Vireo
White-eyed Vireo. Yet another variety of bird who finds refuge in Shirley’s backyard birding paradise!
Gray Catbird
Gray Catbird. He flashed the deep red undersides of his tail at us as he stole a berry from this bush. Shirley was delighted to see a bird partaking of the bush that she grew just for the birds!