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Baltimore Oriole

Icterus galbula ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: ICTERIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The rich, whistling song of the Baltimore Oriole, echoing from treetops near homes and parks, is a sweet herald of spring in eastern North America. Look way up to find these singers: the male’s brilliant orange plumage blazes from high branches like a torch. Nearby, you might spot the female weaving her remarkable hanging nest from slender fibers. Fond of fruit and nectar as well as insects, Baltimore Orioles are easily lured to backyard feeders.

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Keys to identification Help

Blackbirdlike
Blackbirdlike
Typical Voice
  • Size & Shape

    Smaller and more slender than an American Robin, Baltimore Orioles are medium-sized, sturdy-bodied songbirds with thick necks and long legs. Look for their long, thick-based, pointed bills, a hallmark of the blackbird family they belong to.

  • Color Pattern

    Adult males are flame-orange and black, with a solid-black head and one white bar on their black wings. Females and immature males are yellow-orange on the breast, grayish on the head and back, with two bold white wing bars.

  • Behavior

    Baltimore Orioles are more often heard than seen as they feed high in trees, searching leaves and small branches for insects, flowers, and fruit. You may also spot them lower down, plucking fruit from vines and bushes or sipping from hummingbird feeders. Watch for the male’s slow, fluttering flights between tree tops and listen for their characteristic wink or chatter calls.

  • Habitat

    Look for Baltimore Orioles high in leafy deciduous trees, but not in deep forests: they’re found in open woodland, forest edge, orchards, and stands of trees along rivers, in parks, and in backyards.

Range Map Help

Baltimore Oriole Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Adult male

    Baltimore Oriole

    Adult male
    • Slender body shape with sharp, pointed bill
    • Bright orange underparts with black head
    • Black and white wings with orange shoulders
    • Black tail tipped with orange
    • Common spring/summer resident in eastern and central U.S.
    • © Joseph Knoll/PFW, St Marys, Georgia, December 2006
  • Adult male

    Baltimore Oriole

    Adult male
    • Bright orange with black head
    • Bold white markings on black wings
    • Sharp silver/black bill
    • © The Nature Nook, Massachusetts, May 2009
  • Adult male

    Baltimore Oriole

    Adult male
    • Jet black head and upper back
    • Black and white wings
    • Bright orange rump
    • Black tail with orange tips
    • © B. Van Halen, May 2010
  • Female

    Baltimore Oriole

    Female
    • Long, pointed gray bill
    • Yellow-orange breast
    • Dark gray wings with white bars
    • Olive-gray head and back
    • © Robert Strickland, Beverly Hills, Florida, February 2010
  • Adult male at nest

    Baltimore Oriole

    Adult male at nest
    • Brilliant orange and black
    • Distinctive, woven basket-shaped nest hangs from branch
    • © Gary Tyson, Hammond Lake, Tioga, Pennsylvania, June 2006
  • Adult female

    Baltimore Oriole

    Adult female
    • Orange breast and tail
    • Long, orange tail
    • White bars on gray wings
    • Head mottled gray and orange
    • © John Rowe, Ossipee, New Hampshire, May 2011
  • Adult female

    Baltimore Oriole

    Adult female
    • Pointed silvery gray bill
    • Head mottled gray, olive and orange
    • Bright orange underneath
    • © Joel DeYoung, Holland, Michigan, May 2011
  • Adult male

    Baltimore Oriole

    Adult male
    • Elongated body shape with long tail
    • Bright orange underneath with black head
    • Black and white wings
    • Orange and black tail
    • © Matt Bango, Central Park, New York, New York, May 2010
  • Adult female

    Baltimore Oriole

    Adult female
    • Long, pointed gray bill
    • Orange breast
    • Gray wings with white bars
    • Orange and gray head
    • © Kelly Colgan Azar, Chester County, Pennsylvania, June 2011

Similar Species

  • Adult male

    Bullock's Oriole

    Adult male
    • Chunkier than Baltimore Oriole with shorter tail
    • Black crown and chin
    • Thin black stripe through eye
    • Large white patches on black wings
    • © Glenn Bartley, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada, June 2011
  • Adult female

    Bullock's Oriole

    Adult female
    • Similar to adult female and immature Baltimore Oriole
    • Orange breast and face with dull gray belly
    • Orange brightest at base of bill
    • Pale gray back
    • © Carlos Escamilla, Laredo, Texas, May 2011
  • Adult male

    Orchard Oriole

    Adult male
    • Similar to adult male Baltimore Oriole, but smaller, more warbler-like
    • Rich chestnut brown underneath
    • Chestnut bar on black wings
    • © lindap57, Iowa, May 2011
  • Adult female

    Orchard Oriole

    Adult female
    • Similar to female and immature Baltimore Oriole
    • Small, warbler-like
    • Bright yellow olive throughout
    • Unmarked face
    • © Jim Paris, Bombay Hook NWR, New Smyrna, Delaware, May 2011
  • Adult male

    American Robin

    Adult male
    • Superficially similar to Baltimore Oriole, but larger and more heavy-bodied
    • Slaty gray back and wings
    • Bold white crescents around eye
    • Thick yellow bill
    • © Debbie McKenzie, Alabama

Similar Species

The distinctive shape and bright colors of orioles help set them apart from most other species. Orchard Orioles are noticeably smaller than Baltimore Orioles. Male Orchard Orioles are rich chestnut, never bright orange, and female Orchard never show any orange tones. Immature male Orchard Orioles have a solid black throat (unlike the partial hood of Baltimore) and yellowish-green underparts. Bullock’s Oriole occurs mostly west of the Baltimore Oriole's range, but the two species occasionally hybridize in the Great Plains. Male Bullock’s Orioles have orange faces, a black line through the eye, and a larger white patch in the wings. Females and immature males have much grayer underparts than Baltimore Orioles. Some people occasionally mistake American Robins for Baltimore Orioles, but robins are thrushes with shorter bills, rounder heads, solid-brown backs, and a more subdued shade of orange on the breast.

Regional Differences

In central North America—including Kansas, Nebraska, Saskatchewan, and Alberta—the Baltimore Oriole’s range overlaps with its close relative the Bullock’s Oriole, and the two species breed with each other. Their hybrid offspring—brighter orange than a typical Bullock’s, but duller than a typical Baltimore—can confuse bird watchers.

Backyard Tips

Baltimore Orioles seek out ripe fruit. Cut oranges in half and hang them from trees to invite orioles into your yard. Special oriole feeders filled with sugar water supplement the flower nectar that Baltimore Orioles gather. You can even put out small amounts of jelly to attract these nectar-eaters (just don't put out so much that it risks soiling their feathers). Planting bright fruits and nectar-bearing flowers, such as raspberries, crab apples, and trumpet vines, can attract Baltimore Orioles year after year.

Find This Bird

Aim your eyes high when looking for Baltimore Orioles. They’re most often seen perched at the tops of trees or flitting through the upper foliage in search of insects. Listen for their distinctive chatter, which is unlike the call of any other bird where orioles occur. Noisy nestlings may alert you to a nest site high off the ground.