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Orioles have beautiful and vivid plumage that comes in a variety of colors including many shades of yellows and oranges. With the right birdwatching  binoculars, you can easily spot one of these vividly colored birds in your yard. In this orioles’ identification guide, I’ll go over what makes these birds unique, where they live, what they eat, and the different species you’ll come across. However, I’ll mainly focus on one of the most common oriole species, the Baltimore oriole.

Plumage

As I mentioned above, these birds come in a wide range of colors including yellow, bright orange, and deep, burnt orange. Males tend to be more colorful than the females, which are usually a mixture of dull orange, grays, and greens. Male Baltimore orioles have a beautiful, bold yellow-orange and black patterning. The male will have black wings, back, and head, but will also have the characteristic bright orange found below the tail.

The female Baltimore oriole will have pale yellow and orange coloring below. Both males and females will have bright white wing bars on their dark wings, in addition to a pointed, sharp looking bill.

Size

The Baltimore oriole is slightly smaller than the American robin, measuring in under nine inches from tail tip to bill.

Where to Find Orioles

When you’re birding and looking for these beautiful orange birds of North America, look at the crowns of treetops, where you can often find them singing their cheerful songs.

Diet

These birds will forage in shrubs and trees and will also make short flights to catch some insects. The oriole will live on a diet that mainly consists of nectar, berries, and insects. They can also commonly be found drinking from a hummingbird feeder. A bird feeder that’s specifically designed for orioles will contain basically the same food that you use in a hummingbird feeder, however, the feeders are designed for these bigger birds and are usually available in the color orange instead of red. The feeders will also have larger perches that allow the oriole to comfortably rest while they feed.

These orioles love fruit and can easily be enticed to visit your bird feeders if you leave out fresh berries or other types of fruit.

Nest

Northern Baltimore Oriole

These birds build hanging nests located in large mature trees near farm fields, yards, or parks. They can also build a nest in open areas. You usually won’t encounter an oriole nest deep in a forest.

Song

The Baltimore oriole’s song is very loud. It sounds somewhat like the robin’s song; however, the song has harsh call notes.

Migration

Like many types of black birds, the orioles will fly south for the winter. However, it’s possible for these birds to survive the cold, if they’re able to locate a food source and the winters aren’t too severe.

These birds will migrate to southern Mexico, northern South America, and central America in flocks. Other birds will not migrate and will stay near feeders during the winter months.

Species

There are nine oriole species found in North America:

  • Baltimore
  • Orchard
  • Bullocks
  • Scott’s
  • Spot-breasted
  • Altamira
  • Audubon’s
  • Hooded
  • Streak-backed

The orchard and Baltimore orioles are found in eastern regions, while the Scott’s and bullock’s orioles are found in western regions. The spot-breasted is only found in Florida. In the southern states, you can find the streak-backed, hooded, Audubon’s, and Altamira orioles.

Interesting Baltimore Oriole Facts

The oriole’s striking black and orange plumage makes it one of the most beloved and recognizable orioles in North America. But there’s a lot more to learn about these beautiful birds, other than the color of its feathers.

Below, I’ve included some interesting facts about the Baltimore oriole.

  • Most Baltimore orioles will spend the winter basking in a sunny climate. Some will winter along the Gulf Coast and in the southeastern states. Every April, these birds will return to their breeding ground where the males will assert their dominance over a two-to-three-acre territory, waiting for females to make an appearance.
  • Maryland claimed the Baltimore oriole as the state bird in 1947, providing it with special protection since 1882.
  • The male sports flashy colors, but younger males don’t achieve the vivid black and orange look until they reach one year of age.
  • The oriole’s basket-like nest is one of the biggest wonders of the birding world. Over a period of five to nine days, the female will weave a hanging nest out of whatever strong fibers they come across, including string, animal hair, weeds, and grass, until the nest is complete. The nest is often suspended about thirty feet off the ground and is located on heavy branches. However, these nests can also be found hanging from a crook. These nests are so tough that a bird can reuse it after returning from their winter ground several months later.
  • While the oriole has a big appetite for insects, they also have a major sweet tooth. One of the best ways to attract these birds to your yard is to leave out some orange slices. It’s also been reported that they love other sweets, including grape jelly, sweet fruits, and hummingbird nectar.
  • When these birds eat berries and other fruit, they practice an unusual eating method that’s referred to as gaping. After they insert their beak into their food, they will spread their beak to create a sort of tunnel, using their tongue to lap up juice.

Final Thoughts

Out of the nine species of orioles found in North America, the Baltimore oriole is by far the most recognizable and most fascinating. You can often sight these birds in your own yard, if you leave out some ripe fruits and berries or hang up some oriole bird feeders. This oriole bird identification guide is by no means complete, considering there is so much information on this interesting oriole species. However, you can use the information in this guide to easily identify which species of oriole you’ve just sighted, where you can locate their nests, what types of foods you can leave out to entice these birds, and when you can expect them to make an appearance in your yard.