Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Two Extraordinary Blackbirds (Hooded Oriole and Scott's Oriole), Black-chinned Sparrow and Others

[Foothills of Mt. Ord and Mt. Lemmon. AZ. May 2013]

New World Orioles are the beauties of the Icterid family -- although completely unrelated to the Old World Orioles they are remarkably similar in looks, diet and voice; an excellent example of Convergent Evolution.

Scott's Oriole is a striking icterid of the Southwest. Brilliantly plumaged in lemon yellow with a black head and breast, this distinctive oriole was observed in the foothills of Mt. Ord.

[Scott's Oriole, male]

Named after Gen. Winfield Scott, a hero of the Mexican-American war of  1846, Scott's Oriole was named by the Soldier/Naturalist Darius Couch; although, by convention, the honor of naming the bird should have gone to Bonaparte who was the first to describe it. Hence, while the common name for this species was assigned by Couch, the scientific name comes from Bonaparte.


Further away at Molino Basin, in the foothills of Mt. Lemmon, another Oriole is observed -- this is the Hooded Oriole -- a yellowish-orange Oriole with a black bib that is found in the Southwest US.

Hooded Oriole seen at Molino Basin. Mt. Lemmon


At Molino Basin, this male was observed with a female -- constantly calling and courting. The Hooded Oriole is expanding its range in some areas and population trends are stable.


There are 3 "Hooded" species in the US -- Hooded Merganser, Hooded Warbler and Hooded Oriole -- all are distinctive representatives of their respective families.

On the Sparrow front, 2 range-restricted species were observed at the foothills of Mt. Ord -- Rufous-crowned and Black-chinned Sparrows.


Rufous-crowned Sparrow is a medium sparrow with a rufous crown and eye-line; a black mustache and rufous on the wings. It was first described by Cassin in 1852.

Black-chinned Sparrow is a grey sparrow with a striking black chin and pink bill


Localized to the Southwest, this grey sparrow has a declining population due to habitat loss. Although still classified as "Least Concern" due to its large range, population surveys show an almost 90% decline over the last four decades.

The Chipping Sparrow, unlike the former sparrows, has a distribution covering most of North America.



This attractive sparrow was observed on Mt. Lemmon. Elsewhere, Black-headed Grosbeak were observed on both Mt. Ord and Mt. Lemmon.

Black-headed Grosbeak, female.

Black-headed Grosbeak, male.


This a wide ranging Western grosbeak; it is known to hybridize with Rose-breasted where their ranges overlap.


High up in the canopy, Western Tanagers were calling loudly at Mt. Ord. While a Brown-crested Flycatcher pair were busy flirting at Molino Basin.

Brown-crested Flycatcher

Bewick's Wren, now largely a Western species, was observed at Mt. Ord as well:

This species is losing out to the House Wren on the East where it has been almost totally extirpated.


The Bewick Wren's long tail and prominent white eyebrow set it apart from other wrens. It was named by Audubon in honor of Thomas Bewick.



Violet-green Swallows were seen busy nesting (also at Mt. Ord).


Red-breasted Nuthatch were observed at Mt. Lemmon -- their noisy calls advertising their presence before becoming visible.


 Lastly, a couple of shorebirds:

American Avocet.

Black-necked Stilt.

Both of these were observed at the Gilbert Water Ranch.

1 comment: