This is not an urban legend but a true story. Orioles have taken up residence in my garden. The species is the black naped oriolus chinensis which is supposedly common, widespread,
tame and noisy.
I can testify that it is noisy. But first the beginning of my oriole tale.
I live next to the Wack Wack Golf and Country Club, one of the few fairly large green and open spaces left in Metro Manila. It is surrounded by subdivisions including mine on three sides and Ortigas Avenue on another. Because it has a large number of trees, creeks and bushes, it has become a bird sanctuary in the bird-hostile environment that has become our city. There are all kinds of birds from the maya-maya, to kingfishers and crows, among others. And orioles.
Orioles from Wack Wack have flown into my garden often but only as visitors. We sight them after we hear them. They have a kind of whistle/long hoot that is very distinctive.
My household would rush outdoors to the yard when they heard their distinctive call and look where the sound came from and then point, “ang dilaw, ang dilaw.” It happened briefly but regularly enough that now they say “oriole.”
In any case after a brief visit to the caimito tree, then the mango tree, even the neem tree, the orioles, always in pairs, used to fly back to Wack Wack and presumably their nests.
But in the past two weeks, I am sure they have taken up residence in my garden. We hear them at dawn from the malik malik tree in front, then when the sun is up, they are heard at the back where the yard is widest. Then they are seen and heard noisily flying from tree to tree (kamagong to palo santo, mango to chico, narra to lumbang). We look at the direction from where their call comes and because they are a distinct yellow, we catch a glimpse of them. Other times while sitting in my lanai, I am startled by two yellow blurs flying low over the lawn whistling.
I checked them out on the Internet and found they are called oriolus chinensis. They have yellow bodies with black lower feathers near the tail, a pink beak and a black nape. Thus, they are also known as the black naped oriole. Other Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia have them. In the latter, the belief is that if a woman seven-months pregnant eats an oriole, she will have a handsome baby. I doubt if it would be a satisfying meal after much effort in catching it. And babies don’t need orioles to be adorable.
Balesin Island has flocks of orioles and they fly in formations of about 15 to 20 in some instances. Obviously, they are entrenched in the island and still have lots of forest to take up residence and survive. I have seen them in Tagaytay, Canlubang and Batangas, usually from golf courses. I have also seen them in Puerto Galera, Mindoro. They are indeed widespread yet.
Orioles exist in second growth forests, open scrub, and from what we have seen golf courses and gardens. That is a variation from their natural habitat which is subtropical or tropical moist lowlands. They are adjusting to environmental changes. They eat grass, flowers and the like.
A birdwatcher, Ely Teehankee, has some beautiful pictures of orioles from the Wack Wack Golf Course which he took in 2010. You can see them in the Philippine Wild Bird Club website. Well, I can tell him that five years later they are still around in Wack Wack, thank goodness.
We should be as hospitable as possible to birds by keeping the trees. The oriole in Cebu known as oriolus s. assimilis is now considered extinct after being abundant in the island when it still had forests in its mountains. It has not been seen since the l930’s though some say since 1910. That is a tragedy.
Fortunately, oriolus chinensis is sturdy and full of life when given a chance. It is not yet an urban legend but a genuine reality. The pleasure its presence gives us is precious and unforgettable.