Photo: Brian E. Small/Vireo

Baltimore Oriole

Icterus galbula

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.
Conservation status 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.
Family Blackbirds and Orioles
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.
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.
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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.


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.

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.


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.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Migration

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

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Migration

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

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Clear and flute-like whistled single or double notes in short, distinct phrases with much individual variation.