Rare sighting has Vancouver Island birders aflutter
VICTORIA -- When a Sidney man found a hooded oriole at his hummingbird feeder in February, he discovered the rarest of finds can be in your own backyard.
At first, Stan Coe thought the colourful bird he had spotted was the more common American goldfinch. The retired photographer grabbed his camera and snapped some pictures.
“I sent a picture in to the Peninsula News thinking it was a goldfinch,” said Cole.
When a member of the birding community contacted Coe in early March after seeing the photo in the newspaper, they told him it was a hooded oriole. The bird was a rare visitor that is commonly found in the southern United States and northern Mexico.
“A hooded oriole wasn’t even in my British Columbia bird book so I was amazed,” said Coe. “When I first saw the bird it wasn’t so special but now maybe it’s something I can tell my grandchildren about.”
Coe says the bird with the stunning yellow, grey and black plumage was elusive, and would only visit the backyard feeder for seconds at a time. Therefore, it was no surprise that when the rarity was correctly identified as a hooded oriole, it had already flown away to parts unknown.
It’s the hunt for rare examples of birds that motivates the Vancouver Island birder community. Experts say that seeing such a rare avian example would have been a once in a lifetime experience.
“The last time a hooded oriole was in the area long enough for people to go looking for it was 1996,” said Rocky Point Bird Observatory expert Ann Nightingale. “If this hooded oriole had still been around, we certainly would have seen people from the island, the mainland possibly and beyond coming to see it if they could get permission to do so.”
Coe says he doesn’t know why the bird was attracted to his hummingbird feeder.
“It probably had to stop somewhere so it stopped here,” he said.
Nightingale says just weeks before Coe spotted the hooded oriole at his feeder, there was a sighting in Washington state in late January 2021.
“We have no way of proving it, but my guess is it’s the same bird,” said Nightingale. “I believe this bird was off track and just continued to roam around and I suspect it was the very same bird.”
Nightingale says seeing the photos of the hooded oriole captured by Coe was bittersweet.
“They were just stunning but it made it even sadder knowing we didn’t see them until after it was gone,” said Nightingale.