GOLDEN ORIOLE (Oriolus oriolus)

L'oriot d'Europe

The Golden Oriole is a summer visitor to Europe and the first sound of an Oriole each year really makes me believe that the warm weather is not too far away. They arrive in late April to early May and the sound of their calls immediately tells you they are around, the clear, fluted, cheerful whistle is normally made from the top of a tree and carries for a long distance across the landscape:

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The clear sound, from a distance seems a fairly simple "tiddly-oo", but if you get close and listen carefully you will soon pick up quite a bit of variation in the phrases, you can also be impressed with the power in the voice of this relatively small bird (just a bit bigger than its close relative the Starling) and then understand how the sound carries so far:

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Some of this variation is clearer if you study the sonogram of these four phrases:

In Switzerland it is a lowland bird, normally not encountered above 800m it prefers fairly open deciduous forests alongside rivers and lakes. It lives up in the canopy and once the summer flush of leaves are out is pretty difficult to see - but that song is unmistakable.

Another of its calls which is easy to identify is a coarse snarl on a  rising note. Cramp et al describe this as a "squalling" call, not a bad description but I do not know where it comes from:

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I think of it myself as more of a snarl because of its coarse nature - even in the sonogram it is not a clear note but a very diffuse sound of a variety of frequencies:

Although these are its two most readily identified sounds it does make a variety of others. Here was a pair in the canopy above my head, clearly interacting with each other with one (but I could not see whether it was the male or the female because it was late June and the leaves were full) making a variety of gentle chatterings (I had to cut a piece out of this sequence as an aircraft flew over at the vital moment):

 

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They really seem to dislike crows as I often see them chasing them away, probably because the Oriole nest is a small open affair strung into a small fork high up in  tree crown, and it would be vulnerable to predation by crows. In the following brief scene an Oriole calls out then flies after a crow making an angry sounding series of squawks and grabbing to pull at the  tail of the crow which had to accelerate away, turning only to swear back at its attacker:

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So finally here is another nice May scene alongside the Lac du Neuch√Ętel, with Cuckoos, Crows, Black Kite and some Greylag Geese and floating across them all the beautiful flute of the Golden Oriole:

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