Photo: Brian E. Small/Vireo

Orchard Oriole

Icterus spurius

Most common in the Midwest and South is this small oriole. It favors open areas with scattered groves of trees, so human activities may have helped it in some areas, opening up the eastern woodlands and planting groves of trees on the prairies. Orchard Orioles often gather in flocks during migration. The black-throated young male, sitting alone in a treetop and singing his jumbled song, is often confusing to beginning birders.
Conservation status In recent decades, has decreased in many parts of range but has increased in some regions, such as northern Great Plains.
Family Blackbirds and Orioles
Habitat Wood edges, orchards, shade trees. Breeds in semi-open habitats with deciduous trees and open space, including riverside trees, orchards, suburbs, forest edges and clearings, prairie groves. Usually avoids unbroken forest. Winters in brushy areas and woodland edges in lowlands of the tropics.
Most common in the Midwest and South is this small oriole. It favors open areas with scattered groves of trees, so human activities may have helped it in some areas, opening up the eastern woodlands and planting groves of trees on the prairies. Orchard Orioles often gather in flocks during migration. The black-throated young male, sitting alone in a treetop and singing his jumbled song, is often confusing to beginning birders.
Photo Gallery
Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly by searching for insects among the foliage of trees and bushes. Regularly visits flowers, probing in the blossoms with its bill. In winter in the tropics, often forages in flocks.


Eggs

4-5, sometimes 3-7. Pale bluish white, blotched with brown, gray, purple. Incubation is probably mostly or entirely by the female, about 12-15 days; reportedly, the male may feed the female during incubation. Young: Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 11-14 days after hatching, may remain with one or both parents for several weeks. 1 brood per year.


Young

Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 11-14 days after hatching, may remain with one or both parents for several weeks. 1 brood per year.

Diet

Mostly insects, some berries and nectar. Diet in summer is mostly insects, especially caterpillars, beetles, and grasshoppers, plus many others, also spiders. Eats some berries, perhaps more in fall and winter. Often feeds on nectar, and may eat parts of flowers.


Nesting

Male sings in spring to attract a mate. Often not strongly territorial; in some cases, more than one pair may nest in the same tree. Also sometimes nests in the same tree with Eastern Kingbirds. Nest site is in tree (usually deciduous) or tall shrub, rarely in tall dense marsh growth. Often 10-20' above ground, can be much lower or higher (3-70' up); typically placed in fork of horizontal branch, sometimes in clump of Spanish moss or other site. Nest (built by female, possibly with help from male) is a hanging pouch or basket, not as deep as some oriole nests, woven of grass and plant fibers, lined with fine grass and plant down.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Migrates in flocks; many move north across the Gulf of Mexico in spring. Fall migration begins very early, with some southbound by late July.

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Migration

Migrates in flocks; many move north across the Gulf of Mexico in spring. Fall migration begins very early, with some southbound by late July.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A rapid musical warble, somewhat like that of Purple Finch, but not as rich in quality.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Orchard Oriole

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.

Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.

Climate threats facing the Orchard Oriole

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.

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