Rare bird sighting: Black-vented Oriole

Have you seen the Black-vented Oriole?

The Black-vented Oriole has made its home a short distance from our RV site at Bentsen Palm Village. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Little did we know when we made our reservation for Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort that we’d be entertained by a rare bird feeding in the coral bean trees.

Upon arriving at Bentsen Palm on Monday (January 24), we were informed that a very rare bird—the Black-vented Oriole—had recently made its home in the RV Park less than 100 feet from our site.

Bentsen Palm Village is located adjacent to Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park/World Birding Center in South Texas.

The black-vented oriole was first sighted at the state park on December 13 (2010) and has been observed daily at the RV Park since December 31 where it flies back and forth between coral bean trees, a small to medium-sized, deciduous tree with a spreading crown and brilliant red flowers. The coral bean is also known as ‘Fireman’s Hat’ because of its beautiful panicles of bright red tubular flowers that resemble the hats of firemen.

The distinguishing feature of the Black-vented Oriole is the vent, which is all black.

It’s a large oriole with black hood, upper back, wings, and tail, including vent. Under parts and lower back are bright yellow-orange. Black bill is long and slender.

The Black-vented Oriole is attracted to the brilliant flowers of the coral bean tree. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The song of the Black-vented Oriole is a bold, squeaky, gurgling warble. Call is a weak, nasal “nyeh” or “nur”, insect-like and often repeated in series.

Preferred habitats include pine-oak and subtropical or tropical deciduous and dry forests for nesting and breeding. It may also be found in moist lowlands or montanes of subtropical and tropical climates. This species does not normally migrate during winter months.

The Black-vented Oriole is a foraging species, finding insects, berries, and fruit in low vegetation.

The Black-vented Oriole was first described in 1857 by Philip Lutley Sclater, an English lawyer and zoologist.

Native to Central America and Mexico, the Black-vented Oriole is an accidental visitor to South Texas.

Previous sighting in the United States have been rare. The first of six sightings of this species was at Big Bend National Park on September 27, 1968—and on-and-off to October 1970.

The distinguishing feature of the Black-vented Oriole is the vent, which is all black. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other documented sightings include Kingsville in 1989 and South Padre Island World Birding Center in 2010.

Distinguishing characteristics

  • Entire head is black
  • Black wings
  • Orange wedge on wings
  • Black tail
  • Black vent under the tail
  • Light orange on stomach on lower back
  • Gray legs and feet

Photo tip

Capturing a bird’s image can be challenging, frustrating, and fun all at the same time. Try to get the bird’s eye in focus. Don’t put the bird in the exact center of your photo. Show the bird doing something interesting.

A major challenge when photographing birds is to get close enough to obtain a decent-size image of the bird.

As a photographer, you need to be two to three times closer to any bird for a good photo as you would need to get with binoculars. Don’t expect that you’ll be able to get good bird photos with a group of birders, since they won’t appreciate the closer approach you’ll need.

Access to Bentsen Palm Village RV Park

The RV Park management has graciously allowed birders to visit provided that they DO NOT drive into the park (parking is available at Bentsen Rio-Grande Valley State Park, a short walk north on the bike path to the main gate for the RV Park).

Ensure you follow the requests of the RV Park management—be respectful of the residents.

Black-vented Oriole feeding on the flower of the coral bean tree. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You MUST sign in at the Office on the right as you enter the RV Park on foot. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

DO NOT point SCOPES, BINOCULARS, or CAMERAS in any direction but at the bird.   DO NOT direct your optics toward the recreational vehicles.

Please remember that visiting birders are the guests here!

Worth Pondering…
The Oriole’s Secret

To hear an oriole sing
May be a common thing,
Or only a divine.

It is not of the bird
Who sings the same, unheard,
As unto crowd.

The fashion of the ear
Attireth that it hear
In dun or fair.

So whether it be rune,
Or whether it be none,
Is of within;

The tune is in the tree,
The sceptic showeth me;
No, sir! In thee!

—Emily Dickinson

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