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Help develop a Bird ID tool!

Orchard Oriole

Icterus spurius ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: ICTERIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The Orchard Oriole swaps the typical flame-orange of other orioles for a deep, burnished russet. Hopping among riverine shrubs or scattered trees, male Orchard Orioles sing a whistled, chattering song to attract yellow-green females. The smallest of North America’s orioles, it gleans insects from foliage and builds hanging, pouchlike nests during its brief breeding season, and then heads back to Central America for the rest of the year. Orchard Orioles also feed on fruit and nectar in orchards, gardens, and elsewhere.

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Keys to identification Help

Blackbirdlike
Blackbirdlike
Typical Voice
  • Size & Shape

    Orchard Orioles are slim songbirds, larger than warblers and vireos. They have medium-length tails, rounded heads, and a straight, sharply pointed bill.

  • Color Pattern

    Adult males are black above and rich reddish-chestnut below. They have a black head and throat, with a reddish-chestnut patch at the bend of the wing. Females are greenish yellow with two white wing bars and no black. Immature males look like females, but have black around the bill and throat.

  • Behavior

    Orchard Orioles forage for insects in the tops of trees. They also drink nectar from flowers and, in fall, eat berries and other fruits. They sometimes visit hummingbird feeders or eat orange slices or jelly at feeding stations.

  • Habitat

    Orchard Orioles spend summers in open woodlands and areas of scattered trees across the eastern United States and southern Canada. Look for them along river edges, in pastures with scattered trees, and in parks and orchards.

Range Map Help

Orchard Oriole Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Adult Male

    Orchard Oriole

    Adult Male
  • Female

    Orchard Oriole

    Female
    • Small, dainty oriole
    • Bright lemon-yellow on throat and breast, duller olive on crown and back
    • Grayish wings with faint wing-bars
    • © Bill Thompson, Amherst, Massachusetts, June 2012
  • First-summer male

    Orchard Oriole

    First-summer male
    • Small, long-tailed oriole
    • Mostly bright yellow/green with contrasting black face/chin
    • Thin, pointed bill
    • © Bryan Hix, Ohio, May 2011

Similar Species

  • Adult male

    Baltimore Oriole

    Adult male
    • Larger and stockier than Orchard Oriole
    • Bright orange and black overall
    • Bold black-and-white pattern on wings
    • © quietriver250, Iowa, May 2008
  • Adult female

    Baltimore Oriole

    Adult female
    • Larger and stockier than Orchard Oriole with heavier bill
    • Bright orange on breast and rump
    • Duller gray back/wings with two white wing-bars
    • © Kelly Colgan Azar, Chester County, Pennsylvania, June 2011
  • Adult male

    Hooded Oriole

    Adult male
    • Similar to first-year male Orchard Oriole but more slender and longer-tailed
    • Slightly decurved bill
    • Single white wing-bar
    • Some population are noticeably more orange than young male Orchard Orioles
    • © Bob Gunderson, San Francisco, California, May 2012
  • Female

    Hooded Oriole

    Female
    • Similar to female Orchard Oriole, but more slender-bodied with longer tail
    • Decurved bill
    • Mostly separated from Orchard Oriole by range, with some overlap in Texas
    • © Ducbucln, California, July 2012
  • Adult male

    Scott's Oriole

    Adult male
    • Larger and heavier-bodied than Orchard Oriole
    • Bright yellow underparts
    • Yellow wing-bar
    • © chris_crssd, Madera Canyon, Arizona, April 2011
  • Female

    Scott's Oriole

    Female
    • Larger and heavier-bodied
    • Darker overall than female Orchard Oriole
    • Longer, straighter bill
    • © Lois Manowitz, Madera Canyon, Arizona, April 2011

Similar Species

Orioles have a very distinctive shape: longer and lankier than warblers and finches, with a narrow, sharply pointed bill. Orchard Orioles are smaller than Baltimore Orioles and Bullock’s Orioles, with a slightly downcurved bill. Adult male Orchard Orioles are hard to mistake with their rich chestnut-red color. Female Baltimore and Bullock’s Orioles are more orange on the breast and tail, and less greenish-yellow than female Orchard Orioles. Immature male Baltimore Orioles do not have black on the face. Immature Bullock’s Orioles, which have little range overlap with Orchard Orioles, are more orange and usually show a black line through the eye. In south Texas, female and immature male Hooded Orioles are best distinguished by shape: they are slightly larger, with a longer tail and a longer, distinctly downcurved bill. For other similar-colored birds, pay attention to shape. Dull fall warblers such as Pine Warblers can look like female Orchard Orioles, but they are smaller, with more compact proportions and a shorter, less pointed bill. Female and nonbreeding male Scarlet Tanagers are chunkier birds with a much heavier bill and blackish wings without wing bars. American Goldfinches are much smaller, with shorter proportions and a smaller, thicker bill. Scott's Oriole of the Southwest and Mexico has little range overlap with Orchard Oriole. Scott's is larger and longer-tailed. Immatures and females have grayer head and breast than Orchard Orioles.

Backyard Tips

Orchard Orioles don’t visit seed feeders, but they may drink nectar from hummingbird feeders or visit slices of oranges or offerings of fruit jelly (although provide small amounts at a time so it doesn’t get too messy). They are also insectivores, so a shrubby backyard may provide enough insects and spiders to attract them. During fall migration they are attracted to fruits such as mulberries and chokecherries.

Find This Bird

Orchard Orioles can be inconspicuous despite being fairly common. Look for them in the tops of scattered trees or in open woods. Listen for their songs, which are sweet whistles that may at first sound like other familiar birds such as robins or grosbeaks. Listen for harsh churrs and chatters interspersed with the sweet notes to help distinguish this species. And be sure to look for them during the height of summer, as these visitors tend to leave their breeding grounds in late summer, earlier than many other migrants.

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