Golden Oriole sighting???

As unlikely as this sounds I'm pretty sure that I saw a pair (male  & female) of Golden Oriole this morning below Stanage Edge near Hathersage in Debyshire.  The male caught my eye first: bright yellow, bigger than a blackbird, smaller than a wood pigeon, undulating flight, flew out of a tree.  It just went out of sight when I saw a duller bird having the same size and shape and squared off tail, which I took to be the female, fly off in the same direction as the male.

The RSPB website would suggest this is a highly unlikely sighting (too far north) but I can't think what else it might be.  The only other birds I can think off that are this yellow would be Yellowhammer and Yellow Wagtail and it was much bigger than either of them.  Nor was it a Green Woodpecker, though it was that sort of size.

Anyone got any other suggestions as to what this might have been if it wasn't an Oriole?

  • It's not impossible. They do turn up occasionally in various parts of the UK and there is a small breeding population in Lakenheath, Suffolk. Here's the link to the BirdGuides site which reports recent sitings although nothing in Derbyshire.



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  • In reply to TeeJay:

    As TJ said, it's not impossible :) The only bird that could be mistaken that I can think of is a pair of green woodpeckers

    'Dip a dee dah, dip a dee ay, we're not seeing any birds to-day...'

  • As TeeJay says, it's not impossible, but it is extremely unlikely: I think this is a case where we have to apply Occam's Razor - "the simplest explanation is the most likely one". Golden orioles are very rare in Britain: our very few breeding pairs are restricted to a handful of spots in East Anglian where they like to hide themselves in poplar plantations. When green woodpeckers fly off from the ground or from trees, the colour of the yellow rump is very noticeable and really draws the eye. It's easy to imagine the entire bird is yellow just from that. Your description is spot on for green woodpecker in every other respect - undulating flight, size, location and habitat all fit.

    But we just might all be wrong. Maybe they were indeed orioles... it wouldn't be the first time we've been totally astonished by an unusual bird sighting.



  • In reply to Colin Wilkinson:

    I have an additional sighting nearby (and perhaps even further north), I saw a male Golden Oriole in my back garden today 12/05/12. It was eating a piece of banana left outside by chance the previous day. I've never seen or heard of one before today. But it was so striking in colour, canary-yellow. There is no bird even remotely similar. My other regular birds (a couple of jays and wood-pidgeons) were just staring at it and wouldn't go near. It was quite large, almost the size of a Jay, larger than a blackbird.

    This was 1 mile away from Sheffield city centre in South Yorkshire.

    Regards, Anthony

  • In reply to Intr0:

    My wife saw o GO in our back garden some 20+ years ago, maybe it was enroute for the Poplar Plantation at Lakenheath Fen,, the latter we have been to heard their fluted song but never seen them there

    The song is very distinctive, there is at least one pair at Lakenheath right now as I write

  • In reply to John Cooper:


    According to birdfguides there have been 5 G. Orioles seen on the Scilly isles,

    & as John says there is a pair at Lakenheath,

    do you have any photos of them from your garden,

    I'm not doubting you but male Orioles have black wings , they are also slightly smaller than a blackbird, they are about 2cm longer than a starling.

    What a lovely bird to see in your garden.

  • In reply to sugar:

    I only have a camera phone unfortunatly. It was definitly a golden Oriole, I watched it for some 10-15 mins at a short distance through my attic window. I only live in a city-terrace so it was perhaps 30 feet away. I clearly saw the black on the wings especially when it flew away (in a kinda lazy way, it flew in a way that looked effortless, like it didn't need to try very hard to fly fast). And it was larger than my 2 blackbirds for sure. This bird I saw today was perhaps 3/4 of the size of a Magpie. It had no colour except black and (slightly richer than) canary yellow. It had clean lines too, no specles. If I had known what I was looking at I would have taken some sort of photo. But I thought i was watching someone's escapee pet. By the time I had identified the bird it was gone.

    I regularly watch birds and squirrels in my garden. I put birdseed, bread and peanuts out every single day and have done so for 18 months. I quite often end up with a riot of various species feeding (sometimes as many as 20 birds of several different species. They seem to attract each other (until the magpies turn up and scare them all away except the Jays). I think it was probably flying over and noticed the commotion. And investigated, then it found the half-eaten banana left out by a builder. I don't normally leave fruit out because nothing eats it.

  • In reply to John Cooper:

    I know, I know. This is why i signed up for the website, I simply had to share when I realised what I'd seen. My heart is still racing hours later. It just looked magical, so out of place. But I am in no doubt as what I saw, it was identical to the picture. The only minor discrepancy is the size, the one I saw may have just been a particularly large one. I had a much harder time identifying my Jay when he/she first showed up last year. Again I'd never seen one before, and thought it was some sort of dove at first. But because there are other birds with similar colours in their feathers it was much harder to be sure. I now have 2 regular Jays by the way, a strange species to get as a regular in a garden. but It's because I leave ridiculous amount of nuts in my garden every day (3-500g) to feed all the squirrels (up to 7 at a time). I love squirrels even more than birds, it's the peanuts in the shell which attracts the Jays. I think the reason this Golden Oriole landed in my garden has to have something to do with the ridiculous amount of wildlife in such a tiny space. My garden is only 6 meters by 22 meters.

    This bird was incredibly vivid in colour, pure yellow/gold except for the black wings. There was a brief hint of white at the very back of the bird as it flew away at my eye-level. It was 7:50AM this morning perhaps 30 mins after I had put loads of food out.

    I'm going to leave banana in the same place for the next few days, hopefully he may reappear so I can film him, but surely no-one can be so lucky twice? I'd have more chance of being struck by lightning twice in the same week I think. I notice there was a sighting in East Yorks recently (on Birdguide), I wonder if it the same one? It's only 1 county over and even more north than i am.

  • In reply to Intr0:

    How lucky are you , i hope it returns so you can film it,

    I have spent hours at Lakenheath Fen looking for these elusive Orioles,

    I have stood there in the wind, rain & sun listening to them singing but not

    being able to see them,  & there is you having them come to your garden, lol

    I'm so jealous !!