How to Identify Different Species of Orioles

Flickers of orange darting in your garden or passing overhead can be spotted as Orioles make their Spring debut. Orioles are classified in the blackbird family along with grackles and meadowlarks. The name is based on several Latin words meaning “golden”, first associated with the Old-World oriole family which is unrelated to today’s American varietal.

The Tropics of Mexico as well as Central and South America are home to more than 30 species. There are 8 types of these perennial favorites sited in North America, the most common being the Baltimore. Today we will discuss similarities and differences between three species: Baltimore, Orchard and Bullock Orioles.

Baltimore Orioles

Appearance:
  • Length: 6.7-7.5 in (17-19 cm)
  • Weight: 1.1-1.4 oz (30-40 g)
  • Wingspan: 9.1-11.8 in (23-30 cm)

Males have black heads, backs and wings with bright orange below and on tails. They are very similar to their western cousin, the Bullock’s Oriole.

Male Baltimore Oriole

The colors of Baltimore females are more drab and pale in comparison and may be even tan on their belly.

Female Baltimore Oriole

Baltimore Species

Diet: Baltimore Orioles prefer ripe, dark colored fruit such as cherries, mulberries, and deep purple grapes. They are enjoy oranges cut in half and hung from trees. Insects such as beetles, crickets, grasshoppers, moths, and flies are also favorite treats. They eat many insects that are otherwise viewed as pests.

Habitat: You will find the Baltimore Oriole high in leafy trees in Eastern and East-Central North America. They prefer open woodlands, riverbanks, and small groves of trees but not deep forests. They have adapted well to human environments and can be found often near parks, backyards, or orchards.

Calls of the Baltimore Oriole: Primarily it is the male who sings, mostly in breeding season, to ward off other males from his claimed territory. Click here for a melody by a happy Oriole.

Orchard Species

Appearance:

  • Length: 5.9-7.1 in (15-18 cm)
  • Weight: 0.6-1.0 oz (16-28 g)
  • Wingspan: 9.8 in (25 cm)

Orchard males are highlighted in deep brownish-red, russet. They are the smallest of North American orioles.

Male Orchard Oriole
Female Orchard Oriole

Diet: Orioles don’t tend to visit seed feeders as this is not their primary food. They prefer jellies, nectar from hummingbird feeders or slices of orange as well as other fruits during fall migration. Since they eat nectar and pollen, Orioles are considered a pollinator of some tropical plants.

Habitat: As the name suggests, the Orchard Oriole favors orchards and areas with younger trees. They are less common in yards or parks than their counterparts and tend to nest in groups, often with multiple nests. They are widespread in the East and parts of the Southwest in summer.

Calls of the Orchard Oriole

Bullock’s Oriole

Appearance:
  • Length: 6.7-7.5 in (17-19 cm)
  • Weight: 1.0-1.5 oz (29-43 g)
  • Wingspan: 12.2 in (31 cm)

Bullock’s males are bright orange with a black back and large white wing patch. The face is orange w/ a black line through the eye and black throat.

Male Bullock Oriole

Females are yellowish orange on the head and tail with a grayish back and white edged wings.

Female Bullock Oriole

The Bullock’s is most widespread in the West and is named in honor of William Bullock and his son who did extensive ornithological work in Mexico in the early 1800s.

Diet: This species also loves a variety of insects such as beetles, ants, stinkbugs, caterpillars, and small spiders. They extract nectar from agave plants and flowers and seek out blackberries, cherries, and raspberries.

Habitat: The Bulluck Oriole can be found in open woodlands and urban parks; areas with large pine trees or fir forests. Bullock’s Orioles have an unusual way of feeding called “gaping”. In this method they stab fruit w/ a closed bill, then open it to drink of the juice.

Calls of the Bullock Oriole

The Oriole Diet
The diet is similar throughout the three varieties of Orioles discussed. They all have strong sweet tooths. Along with highly nutritional foods, they also gravitate to those with a bit of sugar. A traditional Oriole diet in the wild consists of:

  • Insects
  • Berries
  • Nectar producing flowers
  • Fruits such as oranges, apples, bananas, and peaches
  • Arthropods such as beetles, crabs, lobsters, spiders, scorpions, and cockroaches

How to Attract Orioles

Here are 12 helpful tips to attract Orioles to your viewing area:

  1. Start early. Put feeders out one to two weeks prior to spring migration.
  2. Add orange to your back yard with ribbon or other decorative items.
  3. All species of orioles love nectar. Click here for a simple recipe.
  4. Use oriole specific feeders. Click here for instructions to build your own feeder.
  5. Tempt with grape jelly. Bird seed is not their preferred food.
  6. Encourage nesting and provide materials such as strings, strips of bark and grasses. Orioles do not nest in bird houses.
  7. Give an energy boost of mealworms in summer.
  8. Add a moving water source.
  1. Feeder location away from human activity as Orioles are shy birds.
  2. Deter ants from feeders with an ant moat.
  3. Encourage pollination with the right flowers. Orioles love nectar and tubular flowers.
  4. Select the right bushes to plant. Dark fruit and berry producing bushes like mulberry, cherry, fig, blueberry, and blackberry shrubs catch the eye of Orioles.

Mosaic Birds by Couronne Co. offers several styles of bird feeders to help attract Orioles:

Mosaic Birds Hummble Bold Bird Feeder

  • Product Measurements: 6″ L x 5.25″ W x 7.25″ H
  • Outer Perch Ring-Provides a resting spot for birds and longer viewing enjoyment
  • 3.4oz Bowl Without Drainage-Holds mealworms, suet pellets, jelly, and flower seeds to attract a wider range of birds
  • Gift Boxed: Packaged in a decorative gift box

Mosaic Birds Hummble Basic Bird Feeder

  • Product Measurements: 6″ L x 4″ W x 7.25″ H
  • Bowl Without Drainage-Holds mealworms, suet pellets, jelly, and flower seeds to attract a wider range of birds
  • Open Top Hook-Allows for hanging individually or connecting multiple feeders vertically
  • Gift Boxed: Packaged in a decorative gift box

Mosaic Birds Poppy Stake Feeder Orange

  • Product Measurements: 4.75″ L x 4.75″ W x 38″ H
  • Bowl Without Drainage – Holds mealworms, suet pellets, jelly, and flower seeds to attract a wider range of birds
  • Silicone Washers and Galvanized Screws (Included) – Keeps glass protected from metal
  • Gift Boxed: Packaged in a decorative gift box

Mosaic Birds Floral Bird Feeder

  • Product Measurements: 6″ L x 6″ W x 20.75″ H
  • Petal-Shaped Wire Perch-Provides resting spot for birds and longer viewing enjoyment
  • Open Top hook With Metal Chain-Allows for easy hanging
  • Gift Boxed: Packaged in a decorative gift box

Mosaic Birds Cottage Bird Feeder

  • Product Measurements: 6″ L x 6″ W x 6″ H
  • Easy Mount Design-allows for easy mounting on fence post
  • Interior Perch Space-Provides resting spot for birds and longer viewing enjoyment
  • Gift Boxed: Packaged in a decorative gift box

Bird Symbolism

The Oriole is the symbol of approaching summer or sunshine, usually within a two-week period. An Oriole totem reflects this symbolism bringing sunshine, or positive changes, to your life and/or current projects.

With some early preparation, tempting foods and enticing vegetation, these vibrantly colored, berry loving birds will visit your back yard or patio with their bright flashes of orange and black, providing joy, entertainment, and vital pollination for our planet. Happy Birding!