Scientific Name: Icterus galbula
Description: Adult male Baltimore orioles have brilliant orange undersides and shoulders with black heads and wings. A white bar runs across each wing. Females and young males are less striking in appearance with their yellowish orange and dark gray to brown plumage. Both males and females have long legs and sharp beaks.
Size: Baltimore orioles are 6 to 8 inches in length with a wingspan of 9 to 12 inches.
Diet: They primarily eat insects in the summer but switch to nectar and fruit in the fall. They prefer to eat dark-colored fruits, and some farmers consider them pests. However, Baltimore orioles eat lots of caterpillar larvae that cause damage to trees if their numbers aren’t kept in check. Therefore, Baltimore orioles do far more good than harm!
Predation: Eggs and young birds are especially vulnerable to predators such as squirrels, owls, large birds, and domestic cats. Adults put up a fight by sounding alarm calls and mobbing predators.
Typical Lifespan: Baltimore orioles can live up to 11 years in the wild and even longer in captivity.
Habitat: Their preferred habitat is open deciduous woodlands. Baltimore orioles also do quite well in community parks and suburban backyards. They forage in the treetops and commonly build nests in American elms, cottonwoods, and maples.
Range: Baltimore Orioles can be seen in the eastern U.S. and as far west as Montana for at least part of the year. Migrating populations head south during the late summer to early fall and stay in the Southeast or Central and South America until April.
Life History and Reproduction: Males court females with songs and visual displays. An interested female responds by fluttering her wings and calling back to him. The female bird then builds her nest in her partner’s territory. The nest of the Baltimore oriole is quite extraordinary. It is sock-shaped and is woven with a number of materials to hang from a slender tree branch. These hanging nests are built many feet above the ground, and so they must be built sturdily to hold three to seven eggs. After hatching, the parents feed their young until they leave the nest after two short weeks.
Fun Fact: The Baltimore oriole is named for the English Baltimore family, whose crest is colored similarly to the bird.
Conservation Status: Overall, Baltimore oriole numbers are stable. There is a small decline in the east, but this is compensated for by an increase in the western part of their range. These birds are threatened by deforestation and pesticide use on trees. You can easily invite them into your backyard by planting native fruit and nectar-producing plants or by hanging feeders of sugar water.
Cornell Lab of Ornithology
IUCN Red List
National Geographic Society
University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web