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New World Blackbirds and Orioles: Icteridae

Baltimore Oriole (icterus Galbula): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: The Baltimore oriole has a black back, head, and throat and a yellow to orange belly, rump, and shoulders. Wings are black with white-edged feather tips, and the tail has yellow or orange markings. The species is sexually dimorphic in color, meaning that males and females have different color patterns; males are bright orange and jet black, while females are yellow and brown. The female also has two white wingbars, as opposed to one on the male. Average length is 8.75 inches (22.23 centimeters) with a wingspan of 11.5 inches (29.21 centimeters) and a weight of 1.2 ounces (33 grams).

Geographic range: In the summer breeding months the Baltimore oriole can be found in eastern North America, from Alberta to Newfoundland in Canada and from the Dakotas to Maine in the United States. Their range runs south to Texas, Louisiana, and Georgia. Some birds winter in the U.S. in parts of Florida, California, and the Carribean; the rest migrate to Mexico, Central America, and northern South America.

Habitat: Baltimore orioles prefer wooded areas, and build their nests high from the ground. In the fall they migrate south to tropical climates.

Diet: Eats insects (especially caterpillars), berries, and fruit. They also will feed on human-provided foods such as suet, jams and jellies, and sugar-water in hummingbird feeders.

Female Baltimore orioles weave basket-like nests of grass and plant and human-made fibers that hang from tree branches. (© Gregory K. Scott/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

Behavior and reproduction: Baltimore orioles breed in monogamous (muh-NAH-guh-mus) pairs, with one male and one female. The male attracts a mate by singing, chasing, and showing off his plumage. Females weave basket-like nests of grass and plant and human-made fibers that hang from tree branches. They lay eggs in average clutches of four to five eggs, which hatch in approximately two weeks. Both mother and father feed the hatchlings until they leave the nest after two weeks.

Baltimore orioles and people: Because of their bright plumage and loud, clear song, Baltimore orioles are considered desirable neighbors to many people. The birds also help control the population of insects that are destructive to vegetation, like gypsy moth caterpillars and grasshoppers.

Conservation status: Baltimore orioles are not threatened. ∎

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsNew World Blackbirds and Orioles: Icteridae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Blackbirds, Orioles, And People, Baltimore Oriole (icterus Galbula): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, CONSERVATION STATUS