Okay, maybe not the New York Times but the Reading Eagle pictured the unprecedented Black-backed Oriole on the front page of its February 4th edition. Why? Because this Central Mexican bird has NEVER been reported in the USA or Canada and one was frequenting a bird-feeder an hour from Philly!
There is no doubt that this bird is a Black-backed Oriole…the real question is: Is it wild or an escaped cage-bird? When I first heard about it, I completely dismissed the notion that it was wild. But I kept reading daily e-bird reports from more and more birding luminaries who were trekking to Berks County to spot what could be an “ABA” first. It was in perfect condition, atypical of pet birds who tend to have damaged feathers. My friend Brant Henderson reported seeing a television news story: Why hadn’t I seen it? For two weeks this colorful but shy male visited fresh orange-slices put out by a friendly couple who were enjoying their ornithological-fame.
I had a flashback to the summer of 1983 when I failed to try to see the now infamous African Western reef-heron on Nantucket…..while I was spending a weekend on nearby Martha’s Vineyard! That first ever North American sighting still haunts me as I didn’t believe I could afford the extra vacation day and cost to chase it. I vowed to never make that mistake again.
So an hour drive to see a beautiful orange, black and white bird in the suburbs of Reading on a dreary February morning was certainly worth my time.
The guest book had over 1,000 names of visitors from 26 states and 3 countries. This bird was already a national celebrity in the birding world. It may take a year for the authorities to rule whether it can “count” as wild or not. But I saw it!