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Saskatchewan Orioles

Laurence B. Potter
Publication Information
1 (January-February)
From Field and Study

Saskatchewan Orioles

The Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula) is a fairly common summer Visitant in Saskatchewan as far north as latitude So, and from there it ranges west to Edmonton in Alberta. Farther south on the prairies the Baltimore is uncommon west of Regina and is only occasionally seen in this southwestern corner of the Province. The writer’s notes, dating back to 1906, record some ten appearances of this bird in the thirty years. With one exception all these records refer to solitary males; on June 9, 1924, a pair was seen at this ranch but did not stay long. It was therefore a great satisfaction to us when, in 1936, Baltimore Orioles nested here, one pair successfully rearing a brood of five in our plantation, and another pair nesting near-by.

Naturally we hoped the orioles would come back to us this summer; but on May 26 we had the great surprise of seeing, not a Baltimore but a fine male Bullock Oriole (Icterus bullockii), sitting in one of our crab-apple trees and busy pulling off the blossoms. Early on May 30 I was again watching this oriole, still busy on the apple blossoms, when a female Baltimore appeared on the scene. On catching sight of her, bullockii became violently excited and a wild chase ensued through the trees. Once the two birds grappled and fell together in some tall grass. Five minutes later gulbula was quietly seated in one apple tree and bullockii, still much agitated, in another, both pecking off the blossoms. Incidentally, our apple crop was a complete failure, probably owing to frost in early June.

The following day I was called away on business, and was absent for a week. By that time both orioles had gone, but on June 6 a female Bullock Oriole was seen. In early June a few pairs of Baltimores arrived and remained to nest. On July 1 the writer discovered a pair of Bullock Orioles with a nest about ten feet up in a maple and containing three newly hatched young. Unlike the first Bullock Oriole, which was in full splendor of adult plumage, the male of this pair was a young bird in his first spring dress, having the entire head yellow, with black eye-stripe and throat mark.

On July 10, another visit was paid to the nest, this time in company with Mr. Chas. F. Holmes and his son Paul, both keen bird men whose names the writer has had occasion to refer to more than once. We took the only young bird remaining in the nest. Although we loitered at the spot for nearly an hour we saw nothing of the parent birds, except for a hurried visit by the male. I had hoped that my friends would hear his song. This being quite different from the more tuneful performance of the Baltimore, serves to distinguish the two species at once. Mr. Holmes took charge of the little bird, which has been since submitted to Allan Brooks and identified by him as a male Bullock Oriole. The range of the Bullock Oriole reaches its eastern limit at the Alberta boundary, and though said to be quite common at Medicine Hat, only thirty miles farther west, there appear to be no previous records of its appearance in Saskatchewan. The writer has made careful search and inquiry for this bird during many years without success. So far as this Cypress Hills region is concerned it is not unlikely that orioles ordinarily avoid our comparatively high altitude, some 1200 feet or more above the surrounding plains; but the last two summers, hot and dry as they have been, may have caused them to extend their range, the one species from the east, the other from the west.

A. C. Bent mentions an oriole taken near Maple Creek, Saskatchewan, which he supposes to be a hybrid between galbula and bullockii (Auk, vol. 25, 1908, p. 29). Maple Creek is north of the Cypress Hills and twenty-five miles from Alberta.

Laurence B. Potter

Gower Ranch, Eastend, Saskatchewan, August 28, 1937

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