[CT Birds] Hammonasset Orioles...an interesting turn of events

Zagorski, Sara szagorski at daypitney.com
Wed Dec 2 09:54:12 EST 2009

Louis Bevier wrote an interesting email on these orioles on the Maine list:

Subject: Phippsburg oriole, a Connecticut redux
From: Louis Bevier <lrbevier AT colby.edu>
Date: Tue, 1 Dec 2009 11:13:52 -0500

Although the oriole photographed by Robin Robinson back in early  
November showed characters that suggested it was not a Bullock's  
Oriole, the possibility that such an oddly patterned female Baltimore  
Oriole might be of hybrid ancestry was something that couldn't be  
eliminated. Recently, Mark Szantyr and Nick Bonomo found SIX(!)  
orioles in coastal Connecticut. A selection of those photographed can  
be seen here:


The adult male shows several characters suggesting it is a hybrid, and  
this brings up the question of whether some of these late and "odd"  
Baltimore Orioles could be from the hybrid zone, possibly a population  
at the northern and eastern edge of that region? Female plumaged birds  
would be very difficult to evaluate without DNA samples, and even then  
it might be difficult to tease out the ancestry.

For those interested, the adult male in Connecticut shows some orange  
in the malar, an extensive white patch on the secondary coverts  
including white extending up the outer webs towards the bases, some  
white in the orange upper wing bar, and dark tips to most of the tail  
feathers except the outer pair, which show pale orange bases. All  
these characters suggest Bullock's influence.

The story of these two species, previously lumped but now known NOT to  
be each other's closest relative among North American orioles, goes  
back a long time. A beautiful plate of males is depicted in an article  
by George Miksch Sutton, who published his observations in a 1938  
issue of The Auk available here:


To me, Sutton's oriole number "2" is close to the Connecticut male but  
with a tail even more like a Bullock's.

Other key papers on the hybrid zone include the following, most also  
available at the SORA web site above:

Sibley, C. G. and L. L. Short, Jr. 1964. Hybridization in the orioles  
of the Great Plains. Condor 66:130-150.
Rising, J. D. 1970. Morphological variation and evolution in some  
North American orioles. Syst. Zool. 19:315-351.
Rising, J. D. 1983. The progress of oriole "hybridization" in Kansas.  
Auk 100:885-897.
Rising, J. D. 1996. The stability of the oriole hybrid zone in western  
Kansas.Condor 98:658-663.

Louis Bevier
Maine-birds mailing list
Maine-birds AT colby.edu

-----Original Message-----
From: ctbirds-bounces at lists.ctbirding.org [mailto:ctbirds-bounces at lists.ctbirding.org] On Behalf Of Nick Bonomo
Sent: Tuesday, December 01, 2009 7:08 PM
To: Mark Szantyr
Cc: ctbirds at lists.ctbirding.org
Subject: Re: [CT Birds] Hammonasset Orioles...an interesting turn of events

Hats off to Mark for nailing such great documentation on this bird.
Thanks to those pics, our initial suspicions of "that's quite a bit of
white in the wing" could be supported with field marks that would have
otherwise been difficult to document without his killer images. And
all with a camera setup that is, as Mark puts it, probably worth more
than me :)

That flock, or at least part of it, has been in the campground since
at least 11/18. On that date I had the hybrid male (reported as a
Baltimore) and 1-2 young birds. On that afternoon my views were brief
and the birds not nearly as cooperative (stayed high in the pines and
cedars), so it's possible that all 6 birds were present then and I
just happened to see 3 of them.

Nick Bonomo
Wallingford, CT

On Tue, Dec 1, 2009 at 6:52 PM, Mark Szantyr <birddog55 at charter.net> wrote:
> As Nick Bonomo mentioned, we found six orioles at Hammo on Sunday morning.
> Nick says this flock has been around for about 10 days.  In the flock, an
> adult male oriole struck us as a bit odd.  Several characters, increased
> white in the greater wing coverts, a hint of white in the lesser coverts,
> orange on the sides of the neck, an elongated "beard" below the black hood,
> and orange bases to the rectrices with dusky tips and a reduced amount of
> black, all point to this being a hybrid Baltimore X Bullock's Oriole. Sutton
> illustrated some of these forms in a 1938 AUK article and the Hammo bird
> matches these very well.  A gallery of images including the hybrid adult
> male with a selection of the other orioles present is below.
> http://Birddog55.zenfolio.com/p723713134
> Mark
> Mark S. Szantyr
> 80 Bicknell Road #9
> Ashford, Connecticut 06278
> 860-487-9766
> Birddog55 at charter.net
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