Saturday, February 9, 2013

Charlotte Chase!

Ed Corey, Nick Flanders, Natalia Ocampo-Penuela and I drove down to the Charlotte (pronounced this day with a hard ch-) area today to see a couple odd western species that had been showing up at feeders. 

The first target was a Bullock's Oriole.  After 20 or 30 minutes of waiting in a lovely yard he showed up to survey the buffet options that his hosts had left out for him.
Bullock's Oriole! (adult male)
He used several of the many feeding stations including the ant trap above the hummingbird feeder.  Was he taking advantage of the free insects or just getting a drink?

Eating ants or drinking water?

What a beautiful bird and a lifer for all of us except Ed!  That's 3 North American Orioles down and 5 to go. 


Our next stop was just up the road in Monroe, NC where a couple western hummingbird species have been spending the winter.

While we waited for them to show, we entertained ourselves by looking at a couple oddly white Carolina Chickadees that inhabit the yard.

Leucistic (?) Carolina Chickadee
I had never seen a chickadee like this before!  It must have some sort of pigment deficiency?

Eventually our first hummingbird showed up...

Calliope Hummingbird
This is a terrible, distant photograph, but the short tail (completely hidden behind the front wing) and the streaky throat make this bird a Calliope Hummingbird.

It wasn't a stunner like the oriole was and didn't give us such prolonged views, but it was a lifer for all of us except for Nick, so we didn't care. 
Rufous Hummingbird
The Calliope disappeared quickly because this larger, more aggressive Rufous Hummingbird arrived to have his turn at the feeder.

Bird chasing is always a risky business, but today we lucked out and swept our targets quickly!  A big thanks to the hosts, Noreen George and Cynthia Hinson, for sharing their rare birds.


  1. The bullocks oriole is shown to live only in the west. How long have they been being sighted this far east? Great photos.

    1. Hi Polly,
      A lot of western species are known to wind up wintering along the east coast(instead of migrating to more tropical latitudes as expected), but because the density of such birds is so low, these areas are not included in range maps by many references. Sibley shows gray areas/dots to cover such sparse/'casual' records. You can also see lots of records of eastern Bullock's Oriole (and other western birds, i.e. Western Tanager, Western Kingbird) on ebird maps:
      Bullock's and Baltimore Orioles used to be lumped together as the same species, so there may not be good records for the east prior to them being re-split, though it looks like 4(!) showed up in Morehead City, NC in 1959.