Cape Breton family hosts rare Bullock's oriole in backyard

This Bullock's oriole is supposed to be in Central America this time of year. Instead it's in Sue King-Gosse's Whitney Pier backyard.

'It's very exciting to have something like that, a rare bird'

Bird enthusiasts from across Nova Scotia have come to the Gosse's backyard to catch a glimpse of the visitor. (Sue King-Gosse)

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 Bullock's oriole arrived in Sue King-Gosse's backyard in Whitney Pier in mid-December. (Sue King-Gosse)

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.

Sue King-Gosse is an avid birder. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

"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.

The bird thrives on globe grapes and Smucker's grape jelly. (Sue King-Gosse)

About the Author

Wendy Martin

Reporter

Wendy Martin has been a reporter for nearly 30 years. Her first job in radio was at the age of three, on a show called Wendy's House on CFCB Radio in Corner Brook, N.L. Get in touch at wendy.martin@cbc.ca

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