Baltimore Oriole


Common Name: Baltimore Oriole

Class:  Aves

Order: Passeriformes

Family: Icteridae

Genus: Icterus

Species: Icterus galbula

Photo: M. Noonan




The Baltimore Oriole is part of the Passeriformes order in the family Icteridae that includes other blackbirds and orioles.

The Baltimore Oriole male is an easily identifiable bird with an all black head and wings as well as an orange chest and rump. There are noticeable white wing bars as well as identifiable orange sides on the oriole's tail. Females are not as colorful as males and they don't have any black except for on their wings. The females and first year males have a bright orange-yellow chest and tail with a gray-green back. The Baltimore Oriole can at times be mistaken for an Orchard Oriole which has a dark orange color that is almost red and an all black tail. Female Orchard Orioles generally don't have any orange pigmentation but rather are yellow and yellow-brown.


Photo: Sara Morris



Baltimore Orioles are found in a variety of habitats but prefer areas that contain deciduous trees near the water. In the summer during breeding season they are found from southern Canada in a bowl shaped range that extends down to Mississippi. During the winter they can be found in Florida, Cuba, southern Mexico and much of central America.


The Baltimore Oriole has quite a diverse diet that includes insects, fruit and nectar from flowers. Nectar is mostly consumed during the non-breeding season when many Orioles are found in Mexico. Because they drink nectar orioles are thought to be important pollinators in these areas. While Orioles will occasionally take nectar from plants and nectar feeders during the summer, the majority of their diet is  made of insects, mainly caterpillars.


Photo: M. Noonan



Pair bonding is started right as the females nears breeding territories. Here they are courted by the males already holding territories. When courting a female a male will bow and sing a song to persuade her to stay with him. After pair bonding both the male and female will aggress intruders; males attacking other males and females attacking other females.

Females alone will make a nest in late April or May around the time there are abundant insect populations. It will take the female about a week to make the hanging nest which she will build in three steps. First, she will build the overall base of the nest with strong, flexible  materials. Next, she adds springy material to make sure the nest holds a bowl shape and doesn't sag. Last the female lines the interior of the nest with soft, downy fibers. After making the nest the female will lay 3-7 eggs and after around two weeks the chicks will hatch. The chicks at the moment of hatching are altricial so they cannot feed themselves or regulate their body temperature so they depend completely on their parents.


Photo: Sara Morris




Baltimore Orioles are found during the summer throughout Western New York  in many different rural and suburban habitats mainly because they tolerate and will still nest near where there are people.


Photo: Sara Morris

Birds of Western New York is brought to you by the Institute for the Study of Human-Animal Relations at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY.