Living Bird Magazine
Bullock's OrioleIcterus bullockii
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Icteridae
Nimble canopy-gleaners of open woodlands in the western U.S., Bullock's Orioles dangle upside down from branches while foraging and weaving their remarkable hanging nests. Adult males are flame-orange with a neat line through the eye and a white wing patch; females are washed in gray and orange. In addition to insects, they eat fruit and nectar—a trait some bird watchers capitalize on by offering nectar, jelly, and orange halves in summer backyards. Listen for their whistling, chuckling song in tall trees along rivers and streams.More ID Info
Find This Bird
In the generally arid West, riparian (or streamside) woodlands hold a lot of the songbirds, including Bullock's Orioles. Look for them in cottonwood trees where they forage in the outer branches or build their intricately woven, hanging nests. Orioles are vocal birds; listen for their sweetly whistled notes interspersed with harsh chattering, sung by both males and females. Sometimes they give just the chattering notes as they take flight, and this can help you locate them, too.
- Turpial de Bullock (Spanish)
- Oriole de Bullock (French)
Bullock's Orioles don't eat from seed feeders, but they do look for sugary foods as they complete their spring migration. A half-and-half mixture of water and grape jelly, blended into a syrupy nectar and set out in a small, shallow container, may attract the birds to your backyard as breeding season begins. They may also visit hummingbird feeders, as long as they provide perches. Birding stores sell oriole feeders that are specifically designed to attract orioles with sugar water. You can also put out orange halves in a shallow dish of water (to discourage ants). Replace the fruit daily to prevent drying or growth of harmful mold. Start putting out food before migrants arrive in your area; if it's not there when they first canvas your yard, they'll keep going. Once the birds have begun nesting, transition from sweets to mealworms. Visit Project FeederWatch for more information on how, what, and where to feed birds in your backyard.
- Cool Facts
- Bullock's Orioles often take nectar from flowers, and they will sometimes raid hummingbird feeders for their sugar water.
- Both male and female Bullock's Orioles sing—the male more sweetly, the female often more prolifically.
- In the Great Plains, where their ranges overlap, Bullock's and Baltimore Orioles frequently hybridize. The two species were lumped together for a while as the Northern Oriole. Genetic research has since determined, however, that they are not very closely related.
- The Bullock's Oriole was described and named by William Swainson in 1827, drawing on material collected by English father-and-son naturalists William and William Bullock in Mexico.
- Bullock's Oriole pairs may nest outside the territory where the male advertises.
- The oldest recorded Bullock's Oriole was a male, and at least 8 years, 11 months old, when he was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Colorado in May, 2007.