Monday, January 28, 2008

A Rare Bird by Subway

This morning I went to see the Scott's Oriole that was reported from Union Square Park in New York City. The oriole has been sighted repeatedly over the past several days in a small garden on the southwestern corner of the square. Apparently it was first seen in December, but at the time someone misidentified it as an orchard oriole. The bird's true identity was only established last week.

When I arrived, several birders were present, but the oriole was not. As we waited, several raptors flew through the park, including a peregrine falcon, an American kestrel, and a Cooper's hawk. There was a single yellow-bellied sapsucker tapping at the trees and a marge mixed crowd of white-throated sparrows and house sparrows picking through the garden.

About a dozen people had gathered by the time the oriole appeared. It sunned itself for a short time at the top of a tree and then flew to the ground to feed. After a few bites it flew into a nearby bush and perched there for about fifteen minutes. While I was watching, it did not display any of the aggressive behavior noted by Corey.

The Scott's oriole was my 300th life bird.

Several photos of this Scott's oriole are available around the internet, especially on Flickr. I noticed that the feathers of the back and head, rather than being plain black, have an intricate pattern of black, gray, and green. Some of that can be seen in this photograph, but the effect is much more striking in person.

As a side note, a building across the street from the park has a speaker that plays peregrine calls to scare away the pigeons. The pigeons do not seem to be bothered by this at all since they sit on a ledge above the speaker, even while the calls are playing. They only budge when a real peregrine appears.