Birds,  Fauna,  Nature

Golden orioles: My favourite summer sight

Sevagram can be terribly atrocious in the summers with the temperatures climbing to over 45 degrees C. But there are some blessings of nature one can look forward to even when the sun is blazing down. Delicious golden mangoes, the beautiful golden shower tree, and of course, sightings of my favourite bird, the Indian golden oriole. It is a delight to see a flash of flaming yellow suddenly appear before your eyes when you least expect it.

The name “oriole” is derived from the Classical Latin “aureolus” meaning golden. The Indian golden oriole (Oriolus kundoo) was initially considered to be a subspecies of the Eurasian golden oriole (Oriolus oriolus).  But in view of its variations with its Eurasian counterpart in terms of morphological appearance, plumage and calls, it is now considered a separate species. Further, molecular phylogenetic studies have also shown differences.

One way of distinguishing the two species is to look for the kohl-lined eyes- what I call the ‘kajrare naina”! The male Indian golden oriole has a black eye stripe which extends behind the eye which is very distinctive. The females have streaks on the underside which are much more prominent in the Indian species. Overall, though the birds are quite similar, the Indian golden oriole has more yellow in the tail and a paler shade of red in the iris and bill. 

Indian golden oriole (male), Sevagram, 30 November 2015
Indian golden oriole- female.  31 October 2015, Sevagram

It is a secretive bird, and not easily seen in the open unless you are very  observant and quiet. However its striking yellow colour is a dead giveaway. The female of the species has a duller plumage than the male.

Indian golden oriole — at the peepal tree near Shanti Bhawan. Sevagram, October 18 2015
Indian golden oriole — at the peepal tree near Shanti Bhawan. Sevagram, October 18 2015

Have a look at some of my shots clicked over the last few summers in Sevagram.

I accidentally turned my lens towards the tree farthest from me and spotted this male Indian Golden Oriole. The flaming golden yellow and the black streaks on its wings in startling contrast are always a delight to see. And my great luck that another male decided to perch close to the first.

Indian golden orioles (male), Sevagram, 17 Feb 2017 
Indian golden orioles (male), Sevagram, 17 Feb 2017 

This is a long shot, so not too clear. But summer is round the corner, the Lantana berries are beginning to be seen, and the mango tree will hopefully be attractive enough for Mrs and Mr Oriole to pay a closer visit to my house soon enough.

Indian golden oriole- female. 
Indian golden oriole- female. Notice streaks on the underside. 31 October 2015, Sevagram

The Indian golden oriole is a partial migrant which breeds in central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. The Indian populations are largely resident. Summers are their breeding season and it is then that you can witness their courtship displays as they flit from one tree to another. Its call is sweet but repetitive.  Hear it in the video below:

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