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By Christiane Goaziou

The Golden Oriole is a magnificent bird, the size of a blackbird or a thrush. Its length is 24 cms, its wingspan between 44 and 47 cms and its weight between 56 and 59 grams. Its life span is eight to twelve years. Its flight is undulating, similar to that of the thrush.

The male is unmistakable with a dazzling yellow back and front, black wings and tail and a touch of ‘Mascara above its dark red eyes. Its bill is a dark orange red. The female is pale green on the back with a white spotted belly.

Its song is melodious; clear and repetitive, often strangely interrupted by a cat like miaow.

Despite its striking colours, it is difficult to see a Golden Oriole as it is a very secretive bird, hiding in high trees canopies. Their favourite habitats are broad leaves forests, copses, orchards and gardens. They feed on insects, mealworms and berries.

The breeding season is between, April and July .The golden Oriole is monogamous. The male arrives a week before the female, yet the female makes a nest of long plant fibres outside and light grass, wool and feathers inside. The construction of the nest takes about a week. It seems rather messy and fragile but not as fragile as it looks and is a snug place for the brood of three to five young.

The Golden Oriole was always rare but bred in the UK regularly. From 1987, however, they started to decline drastically from twenty seven pairs to four in 2005 , to no longer breeding in the UK.

When I lived I Norfolk and later  in Sussex, I saw Golden Orioles regularly but the last and only one I saw in Gloucestershire was in the late 1980s.

Although the Golden Oriole no longer breeds in the UK, it can be seen in migration in the  south and East coast but, according to the RSPB, the best place to see a Golden Oriole is in the poplar plantations at the Lakenheath Reserve in Suffolk.

I chose to write about the Golden Oriole because it reminds me, with a smile, that my maternal grandmother who lived in the Pyrenees did not see these stunning birds when they arrived in her garden in the late summer but, rather, saw  pests which came to eat all the fruit and berries, leaving nothing for her to enjoy and I still hear her swearing in disgust in her Pyrenean Patois.

PS : Despite its disappearance, the Golden Oriole is still protected in Law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981