Named because their colors are similar to those on the coat of arms of famous politician Lord Baltimore, the Baltimore oriole (Icterus galbula) is one of the most recognizable birds in the United States. Baltimore orioles inhabit most of the eastern U.S. throughout the summer and most migrate to Mexico and Central America each winter.
Male Baltimore orioles are easy to recognize. They are vivid orange on their undersides and have a black head and wings with a single white bar. Females and juveniles are more yellow-orange in color, with a mixture of grey and black on their heads. Both sexes have wingspans of 9-12 inches and resemble smaller, slimmer American robins in proportion.
Baltimore orioles spend much of their time high atop tall trees singing. They prefer areas that aren’t too heavily forested and adapt well to agricultural and suburban landscapes. The diet of the Baltimore oriole varies by season. In the summer they are primarily insectivores, scouring trees for a variety of insects rich in protein. In the fall and winter their diet switches primarily to ripe fruit and nectar to give them the energy for migration. Orioles can also be attracted to the nectar of backyard hummingbird feeders.
Prior to breeding, female Baltimore orioles build unique, sock-like hanging nests that are usually 3-4 inches deep and as little as two inches wide. These nests are built high in trees and consist of a variety of natural and artificial fibers she can find; these nests can take over two weeks to build.
BALTIMORE ORIOLE FACTS
Baltimore’s Major League Baseball team is named after this oriole.
The Baltimore oriole shares its range with the similar-looking Bullock’s oriole and frequently hybridizes with it. At one time these two birds were thought to be a single species known as the northern oriole.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology
U.S. Geological Survey