Baltimore OrioleIcterus galbula

adult male
Brian E. Small/VIREO
adult female
James M. Wedge/VIREO
immature male (1st yr)
Barth Schorre/VIREO
immature female (1st yr)
Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO
adult male
Greg Lasley/VIREO

Description

One of the most brilliantly colored songbirds in the east, flaming orange and black, sharing the heraldic colors of the coat of arms of 17th-century Lord Baltimore. Widespread east of the Great Plains, Baltimore Orioles are often very common in open woods and groves in summer. Their bag-shaped hanging nests, artfully woven of plant fibers, are familiar sights in the shade trees in towns. This bird was formerly considered to belong to the same species as the western Bullock's Oriole, under the combined name of Northern Oriole.

Habitat

Open woods, riverside groves, elms, shade trees. Breeds in deciduous or mixed woodland, generally in open woods or edges rather than interior of dense forest. May be common in trees in towns. Often favors elms. Winters mostly in the tropics around forest edge and semi-open country.

Feeding Diet

Insects, berries, nectar. In summer feeds mostly on insects, especially caterpillars, including hairy types avoided by many birds; also eats beetles, grasshoppers, wasps, bugs, and others, plus spiders and snails. Eats many berries and sometimes cultivated fruit. Feeds on nectar and will take sugar-water.

Feeding Behavior

Forages by searching for insects among foliage of trees and shrubs. Sometimes flies out to catch insects in midair. Visits flowers for nectar, and will come to sugar-water feeders; also will come to pieces of fruit put out at feeders.

Nesting

Male sings to defend nesting territory. In courtship, male faces female and stretches upright, then bows deeply with tail spread and wings partly open. Nest site is in tall deciduous tree, placed near end of slender drooping branch, usually 20-30' above the ground but can be 6-60' up or higher. Nest (built by female, sometimes with help from male) is a hanging pouch, with its rim firmly attached to a branch. Nest is tightly woven of plant fibers, strips of bark, grapevines, grass, yarn, string, Spanish moss, lined with fine grass, plant down, hair. Eggs: 4-5, sometimes 3-6. Bluish white to pale gray, with brown and black markings concentrated at larger end. Incubation is by female, about 12-14 days. Young: Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave nest about 12-14 days after hatching.

Eggs

4-5, sometimes 3-6. Bluish white to pale gray, with brown and black markings concentrated at larger end. Incubation is by female, about 12-14 days. Young: Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave nest about 12-14 days after hatching.

Young

Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave nest about 12-14 days after hatching.

Conservation

Still widespread and common, but surveys show declines in recent decades. In the mid 20th century, Dutch elm disease killed many of the American elms that had been favorite nesting trees for this species in the past.

Range

Migrates in flocks. Fall migration begins early, with many birds departing in July and August.

Listen

nasal begging calls of fledglings
two note calls & simple whistles
chatter calls & harsh song
songs & whistles #1
songs & whistles #2
songs #1
songs & whistles #3
encounter calls #1
chatter of immatures
songs #2
encounter calls #2

Similar Species

adult male

American Redstart

Warblers in general are often called "the butterflies of the bird world," but the Redstart may live up to that nickname more than any other species. This beautiful warbler flits about very actively in the trees, usually holding its wings and tail partly spread, as if to show off their patches of color. At times it feeds more like a flycatcher than a typical warbler, hovering among the foliage and often flying out to grab insects in mid-air.

adult male

Bullock's Oriole

In the west, this oriole is common in summer in forest edge, farmyards, leafy suburbs, isolated groves, and streamside woods, especially in cottonwood trees. For several years it was considered to belong to the same species as the eastern Baltimore Oriole (with the two combined under the name Northern Oriole), because the two often interbreed where their ranges come in contact on the western Great Plains. The habits of the two are similar.

adult male

Scott's Oriole

The rich, melodious whistles of the Scott's Oriole carry well across the slopes of the western foothills and valleys where it spends the summer. This bird occupies a variety of southwestern habitats, from dense oak woods of the lower canyons to open grassland with scattered yuccas, often placing its nest in a yucca and using the long fibers of this plant in nest construction. Scott's Orioles tend to be uncommon, and unlike some orioles, they are seldom seen in flocks.

adult male

Streak-backed Oriole

Dry tropical forests, from northwestern Mexico to Costa Rica, are the usual haunts of this colorful oriole. The bird is a rare stray into the Southwest, mostly southern Arizona and southern California. Most records in the past were for fall and winter, but recently a couple of pairs have stayed through the summer and have even nested in Arizona.

Vireo

iPad Promo