Bullock’s Oriole Just After Stealing Food From A Spider

This handsome male Bullock’s Oriole had just made a clean getaway from an angry spider.

Two of my most elusive and sought-after subjects are Western Tanagers and Bullock’s Orioles (sometimes I think I’ve been cursed by yellow/orange songbirds). I’ve had numerous opportunities with orioles coming to my backyard hummingbird feeders but by definition that’s a setup situation and I don’t post those types of images (and rarely even take them). So last June when this beautiful male unexpectedly presented himself to me on Antelope Island I was delighted to document some interesting and amusing behavior and even get a shot or two that I liked pretty well aesthetically.


1/2500, f/6.3, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

This bird was a specialist at robbing insects trapped in spider webs. Notice the bundled and wrapped “bug” hanging down from the leaf at bottom right. Just prior to this shot the oriole had reached down and snatched another of these little protein bundles hanging down from the leaf just below his left foot. During that process much of his head was hidden by the leaf but I did get this clear shot a split-second later. This photo now resides in my ridiculously small collection of Bullock’s Oriole images that aren’t setups.

But there’s more to the story than just that. Just prior to this event the bird had stolen more food from a spider web near a fence just a couple of feet away. But in that instance the spider was there to defend its food cache and the reaction of the oriole to the angry spider was nothing short of hilarious. Just over a year ago I posted photos of that encounter and if you missed it I think it would be worth your time to check it out. That series is one of my favorite documentations of amusing bird behaviors.

Here’s the link if you have the interest and missed it the first time around.




29 comments to Bullock’s Oriole Just After Stealing Food From A Spider

  • Chris Sanborn

    I just love the “masked bandit” look of these beauties — regrettably see them only rarely in my yard (and usually they’re interested only in the fountain, not sugar water or jelly, unlike their cousins, the Hooded). Love this pic, got a big kick out of the series from last year. I feel the very same way about a spider coming to sit by me (Little Miss Muffet)! 😁

    • Chris, For several years I had Bullock’s (males, females and juvies) that seemed addicted to that sugar water. But for the last three years or so I’ve very rarely seen them in my yard.

      • Chris Sanborn

        I know you have bigger fish to fry (perhaps literally!) on your MT getaway, but I have to tell you that in the late afternoon today, an exquisite adult Bullock’s showed up at the birdbath right outside my sunroom door, then went to the nearby fountain to splash about for a minute. And just an hour later, what I believe must be his son (definitely a young male) appeared in the Eugenia tree overhanging my yard and allowed me several minutes of ogling through my binocs! I credit my good fortune to your post … so thanks! And happy camping…. 😊

  • Nice image and interesting post. Two years ago I had a pair, male and female, coming to my hummingbird feeder. I was so excited by this!

    • I tried all the traditional stuff to get them to come to my yard but they weren’t interested in oranges or jelly. Just hummer food!

  • Big, big smiles.
    Love the oriole and the earlier series reminded me of a cat we had years ago. Said cat used to proudly bring home lambs tails in docking season – saying proudly ‘look what I caught’.
    Thieves and opportunists are another example of cross species behaviour. And my partner (who LOATHES spiders) would cheer on anything which inconvenienced them. When he wakes I will show him this series.

    • Our Montana farm cats were famous for bringing in gophers they had caught. And some of the gophers were at least half as big as the cats. AND some of them were in pretty bad and smelly condition! We never did learn to appreciate the gifts…

  • Laura Culley

    I just cannot imagine folks who don’t just love birds(raptors/critters)–and I don’t trust ’em either! There’s GOT to be something seriously wrong with them!
    Birds(raptors/critters) are just so interesting/beautiful/intense/comical and so many other adjectives I could list here, but I’m preaching to the choir. Both this shot and the previous series are amazingly beautiful and hilarious! I fully understand the free-food aspect of snitching food from others. Mariah, Jack and Skye take full advantage of that. But the encounter with the spider is just funny! I can almost hear the oriole saying, “Oh Dude! Was that yours? Ooops! I’ll be going now.” And then moving on to the next spider web serving a free-food buffet. The hunting is much easier when the bug is already caught.

  • Alice Beckcom

    What a beautifully colored bird on a perfect branch and a background that makes for a spectacular photo.

    I had not seen the link before. It is very entertaining, especially with your narrative.

    Thanks for the great photos, Ron.

  • Susan Stone

    This is a beautiful shot of the Oriole. I went back and looked at the old post, and enjoyed it all over again. Thank you for a great addition to an already great day (we got to see our very rare ice-age relic plant in bloom today, for the first time).

  • Robyn Kemp

    What a beautiful bird! I did check the link, since I’m a relative newcomer. And I had to laugh at the end – my fully grown son still reacts to spiders that way!

  • April Olson

    Very beautiful, I like the old post too. I wish they stayed around my yard. I would put out a feeder but I don’t think even with the creek and cottonwoods behind our house we have the habitat they like.

  • Marty K

    Today’s another one of those “greeting card shots” that could fund your photography. 😉 Perfect composition — I like the shadow his head casts on the leaf. Thanks for sharing the link. I was lurking back then, but I don’t remember it. I guess my memory isn’t as good as it used to be. Also, my memory isn’t as good as it used to be.

  • Patty Chadwick

    Thanks for the funny link…I had forgotten about that encounter…was fun to see ot again….beautiful shot of oriole in today’s posting…very artistic….

  • Dick Harlow

    I remember that post well! Very enjoyable shots! However, where food is concerned if he has gotten away with thievery before he will continue.
    Very nice shot Ron.

  • Charlotte Norton

    Super Ron!


  • Judy Gusick

    Beautiful shot Ron and the link is hilarious! 🙂 We had an oriole chick fledge too early the other day that didn’t make it unfortunately. The parents were VERY aggressive with the cat/dog/me – a real circus for awhile. I usually don’t intervene, BUT I did and hung it in a shallow bucket in the lilac bush – parents were feeding it some but had others and then the heat may have taken a toll also – 96 in yard, 102 out yesterday. Fledglings of all sorts everywhere making it a noisy place right now!

    • Wow, that’s hot for up there, Judy. I can imagine it’s hard on birds and everything else. I’m just hoping the fires stay mostly at bay in this heat.