Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus)

Golden Orioles have never been known to breed in Cheshire and Wirral, but every now and again one turns up in the county, usually a male in the period from mid-May to mid-June. There was one such instance during this Atlas: an immature male was singing at Moore (SJ58X), 21 to 23 May 2005. This bird was in deciduous woodland (A1), the species’ typical habitat.

Golden Orioles are common and widespread breeders across much of Europe, but in Britain are at the northwestward limit of their range. They have been known to breed in England since at least the 1830s, but only ever in small numbers (Brown & Grice 2005). In the last forty years the species has been monitored by the Rare Breeding Birds Panel, in which time the population peaked in the late 1980s at over 40 pairs, but has dropped considerably since then to a level currently (2004) of 3-8 pairs at eight sites. Most birds have been in East Anglia, where they breed especially in plantations of poplar trees in fenland (Holling et al 2007).

The county avifaunas confirm its rarity in Cheshire and Wirral. There were only two recorded instances during the 19th century, a male in May 1830, and a female shot during the 1850s (Coward 1910). Twentieth century records came in 1907, 1915, 1945 and 1961 (Bell 1962). Authenticated records have been published in the annual county bird reports for 1967, 1974, 1983, 1985, 1986, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1997 and 1998; Golden Orioles thus seemed to be becoming more frequent, but then there was a run of six years (1999-2004) with no records.

Only one bird was reported in each year apart from 1967, when two males were together, and in 1915 when there were two records, of a pair and a male at different locations (Bell 1962). That record, of ‘probable breeding’, remains the closest that Golden Orioles have come to gracing the county with a breeding attempt.