Cape Breton family hosts rare Bullock's oriole in backyard
'It's very exciting to have something like that, a rare bird'
An avid birder in Cape Breton is playing host to an unusual visitor this winter. It hails from a much warmer climate — but shows no signs of wanting to leave its new home.
The Bullock's oriole arrived in Sue King-Gosse's backyard in Whitney Pier in mid-December, following a winter storm with strong westerly winds.
At first, King-Gosse thought it was a Baltimore oriole, a bird rare enough in Cape Breton.
But after she posted some photographs on social media, several fellow birders weighed in with their opinion that it is a Bullock's oriole.
The bird's normal habitat is in the western United States, and it usually winters even farther south, in Mexico and Central America.
King-Gosse is thrilled to play host to such an exotic visitor.
"It's very exciting to have something like that, a rare bird," says King-Gosse. "I mean, it's not just a lifer, it's rare, it shouldn't be here, so we didn't even have to travel to see it."
Bird enthusiasts from across Nova Scotia have come to the Gosse's backyard to catch a glimpse of the visitor.
King-Gosse's husband is the former MLA for Whitney Pier, Gordie Gosse. He jokes he's accustomed to rare birds.
"I've seen lots of rare birds in Whitney Pier — and even more rare birds in the legislature," quipped Gosse.
The bird thrives on globe grapes and Smucker's grape jelly. The challenge, says King-Gosse, is making sure the Bullock's oriole gets its share.
"We come out and wave our arms and drive off the starlings," says King-Gosse, pointing to the various bird feeders in her backyard.
"See, they'll take his food — I'll go down and drive them off and then he'll usually come in."
Last month, a Bullock's oriole attracted lots of attention when it was found in Pakenham near Ottawa.
It suffered frostbite and was taken to a wild bird centre to recover.
King-Gosse isn't sure how this oriole will weather the next few months in Cape Breton.
"I don't know if he'll be here all winter — if he'll make it — I have no idea," she says. "But now I feel like, 'Oh gee, I've got to keep this guy alive.'"
So far, her approach is working.
The Bullock's oriole has been in her yard for 32 days — and counting.