Orioles: Bird Watching Guide, Facts, Identifying & More

September 17, 2020 // 11 minute read

Articles » Orioles

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Orioles are beautiful migrating birds that actually include several different types, making them an interesting species to observe. Because of their migratory nature, they are able to be seen across north, south, and central America.

What makes the oriole stand out among other migratory birds is the flash of bright orange to yellow color that you see, making them identifiable even to non-birders. If you are interested in learning more about Orioles, there are so many interesting facts to cover. These are some of the basics and what avid birdwatchers need to know about Orioles.

oriole in tree
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How To Identify Orioles

There are nine different types of Orioles in the United States, but most folks only see the five most common types in the Oriole family. Because the males of each type are brighter, they are much easier to see and identify, but the females have bright and distinct plumage as well.

The five common oriole species are the Hooded Oriole, Scott’s Oriole, Baltimore Oriole, Bullock’s Oriole, and the Orchard Oriole. All of these can be seen in specific areas of North America and migrate south to Central and South America. Each type has slight distinctions that make it possible to tell the difference between them.

  • Hooded Oriole: Named for the orange hood, or top center of the head, that is seen on the male of the species. The body of this species is the same bright orange to yellow color from head to belly, but only on the underside. The feathers of the males are black with white streaks. Females are less colorful but still a brilliant light yellow color.
  • Scott’s Oriole: Scott’s Oriole is smaller than the other oriole varieties, and is bright yellow instead of black. The had and feathers of the bird is black, but the belly and legs of the bird are the brightest yellow seen on birds.
  • Baltimore Oriole: The Baltimore Oriole is the most common among all the types of Orioles. You can identify it by the characteristic orange and black colors. The bird is relatively large, it’s belly is where you will notice the distinct bright orange color.
  • Bullock’s Oriole: The Bullock’s Oriole is similar to the Baltimore Oriole in color, but it is smaller in size and the orange color extends to the head of the bird.
  • Orchard Oriole: The Orchard Oriole is just as distinct as the other varieties even though the orange color that is visible on its belly is a duller shade of orange. In some instances, it looks almost brown. Its black head, tails, and feathers make it easy to identify when compared to the other species of Oriole.

How To Attract Orioles To Your Yard

oriole in nest
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In general, there are several things you can do to attract orioles to your yard, specific things that make it bird-friendly both during the migration season and throughout the year. Adding items to your yard that support their feeding, nesting, and resting habits is key to attracting orioles.

Add specific orange-colored oriole feeders to your yard, which work great because orioles are attracted to the color orange when feeding. Orioles also love feeding on nectar water, so purchase some to add to a small nectar feeder, or make up some nectar solution of your own. Oranges alone are enough to attract the birds to your yard, as oranges are their favorite fruit to eat.

Make sure there is plenty of space and area for orioles to rest in your yard, with sturdy perches and feeders made especially for their large beaks. In addition to feeders, orioles are attracted to birdbaths and anywhere there is moving water, so small fountains or bubblers in the birdbath are sure to attract their attention.

When it comes to specific types of orioles, there are several things that will attract each one of them. Scott’s Orioles are attracted to the flowers that bloom on yucca plants, and they use the dead plant to build their nests so adding these to your garden will bring them through. Bullock’s Orioles love staying close to water, and they prefer to eat insects over flowers and fruit so a biodiverse garden is key here.

Hooded Orioles specifically build their nests on the leaves of palm trees, making these plants a perfect addition to your landscape if you are in an area where they thrive. Orchard Orioles are harder to attract to your yard because they prefer to stick near the location they are named for- the orchards.

FAQs About Orioles

What Do Orioles Eat?

Orioles birds have a very diverse diet, feeding on insects, fruit, and nectar. They prefer nectar from certain flowers, but will also feed from nectar feeders. When it comes to fruit, there are some they prefer over others with oranges being their particular favorites.

What Color Are Oriole Eggs?

Orioles generally lay between three and five eggs, but can lay as many as seven. The eggs are a pale blue color with brown and purple splotches. The eggs are incubated by the female bird for two weeks.

Where Do Orioles Migrate?

The different types of orioles migrate south to Central and South American countries in midsummer to early fall. Flocks of the birds travel back to the United States areas across the Gulf of Mexico.

What Do Oriole Nests Look Like?

Oriole nests are very distinct, taking on a woven sock basket shape. They like to use fibers from dying plants to weave their nests which can be found hanging from trees or the undersides of tree leaves.

Are Orioles Territorial?

Orioles are not territorial in the way you see other birds guarding large areas of land and water around their nests. Instead, Orioles birds will only guard the area immediately around their nests and not worry about other birds entering their habitat space.

What Do Orioles Sound Like?

Here is a video that displays the typical Oriole calls and songs.

Oriole Behavior And Migration Patterns

Like most other bird species, orioles have distinct behavior and migration patterns that each sex recognizes and responds to. One reason the oriole is considered to be so elusive to birders and the general person watching their backyard for them is that orioles tend to stay in treetops to forage for insects and food.

When orioles are ready to mate the males hop around from branch to branch when there is a female nearby. They will circle them while hopping and bow down to the females as they hop in order to display their orange color and feathers. Interested and impressed females will respond to the males by making a special mating call and then fanning her tail and wings at him.

The couple is not territorial over the area where they have decided to nest, not with other orioles or with other bird species. They allow birds to enter their territory in order to feed and drink. The only time the birds are around other birds is when they migrate back and forth in large flocks.

Migration season starts early for orioles who have been seen heading south as early as July when it is still warm in the farthest northern regions where they can be found. The flocks travel as far south as central South America, heading to areas rich in insects and flowers, including rain forest and temperate regions with plenty of trees for shelter. On the way back from their migration land they have been known to head over the Gulf of Mexico to reach coastal areas along the Gulf Coast. From here the flocks of birds begin dividing up in order to head to the specific regions where they live and are used to nesting.

Depending on the variety of oriole, they can be found in the southwest, Florida region, the Midwest, and east coast regions of the country. While the native areas for Orioles birds have decreased over the years, they are still one of the most widespread bird species out there.

20 Fun & Interesting Facts About Orioles

Orioles Birds Nesting

Female orioles take about 7 days to build a nest. However, if the weather is bad, then it can take twice as long!

Orioles Love Fruit

Many fruit growers consider orioles pests. Since Orioles birds love to eat sweets, they have a tendency to wipe out crops. They especially love grapes, mulberries, crabapples, raspberries, and cherries.

Oriole Size

Orioles are usually about 7 inches long, on average.

The Baltimore And Bullock’s Oriole Were Once Considered The Same Species

Until recently, the Baltimore and Bullock’s oriole were classified as the same species. Thanks to genetic testing, they were separated into two separate groups in the 1990s.

Female Orioles Are Excellent Weavers

Female Orioles are known for their impressive weaving skills. They weave their nest about 4 inches across and 4 inches deep. Their nest has a small opening, or entry, that is approximately 2-3 inches wide.

Oriole Songs Are Unique

When the male Baltimore Oriole sings, the song is unique to each individual. This way, the female can identify and find their mate by hearing his distinct song.

Orioles Are Pollinators

The Baltimore and Bullock’s Oriole play a vital role in pollinating a wide range of tree species while in their tropical habitat in winter. The Oriole transfers pollen from one tree to another while eating the nectar from their flowers.

Orioles Can Spend 12 Days Weaving Their Nest

It can take as long as 12 days for the female Oriole to weave her nest. In fact, one female Baltimore Oriole was observed building a nest. She spent 40 hours and completed about 10,000 stitches. She tied thousands of knots with her beak. When the female Baltimore Oriole builds her nest, she gets very little help from her mate. Oriole nests are sturdy. The Orioles may reuse them after returning months later.

Orioles Female & Male Nesting Roles

The female Oriole is the only one who incubates and broods. However, both male and female Orioles feed their young.

Oriole Egg-Laying

Orioles will lay between 4-5 eggs between the months of April to June. Their young will fledge the nest as late as 30 days.

Baltimore Oriole Name

The Baltimore Oriole came about in the early 1600s. George Calvert, who was the Baron of Baltimore, had a coat of arms that was painted black and bright yellow.

Oriole As A State Bird

The Baltimore Oriole is also the state bird for the state of Maryland.

Oriole Name

The oriole gets its name from the Latin word “aureolus”, or “golden”.

Oriole Nest Proximity

The Orchard Oriole may lay nests that are close to one another in areas that have high-quality habitats. For example, a single tree may have several nests.

Oriole Pesticide Sensitivity

Orioles, like many species, are sensitive to pesticides. Many Orioles are directly affected by the poison and the loss of insects, one of their primary food sources.

Oriole Lifespan

Scientists have found that the oldest banded Baltimore Oriole lived 11 years and 7 months. This data was found by recapturing it from the wild.

Orioles Are Migratory Birds

Many Baltimore Orioles spend the winter season in the sunny climes of southern Mexico, islands in the Caribbean, and northwestern South America. Some spend the winter in the Gulf Coast and in the southeastern portion of the United States. However, in the months of April and May, they head back to their breeding grounds.

Orioles Are Sexually Dimorphic

The male Baltimore Oriole has the flashy colors that this species is recognized for. However, females have olive-brown coloration on their heads and a belly that is yellow-orange in color. Young Baltimore males do not achieve their full coloration until they are a year old. After that, though, their orange feathers become a deeper and a more distinct color.

Oriole Gaping

Baltimore Orioles perform an unusual eating method, also known as gaping. They do this when eating fruits and berries. They insert their beak into whatever fruit or berry they are eating. Then, they spread their beak out, creating a tunnel while using their tongue to eat the juices.

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