The Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula) is a small icterid blackbird common in eastern North America as a migratory breeding bird. It received its name from the resemblance of the male’s colors to those on the coat-of-arms of Lord Baltimore. Observations of interbreeding between the Baltimore oriole and the western Bullock’s Oriole, Icterus bullockii, led to both being classified as a single species, called the northern oriole, from 1973-1995. Research by James Rising, a professor of zoology at the University of Toronto, and others showed that the two birds actually did not interbreed significantly.
The Baltimore Oriole is the state bird of Maryland. It is also the inspiration for the Baltimore Orioles baseball team.
This medium-sized passerine measures 17–22 cm (6.7–8.7 in) in length and spans 23–32 cm (9.1–12.6 in) across the wings. Their build is typical of icterids, as they have a sturdy body, a longish tail, fairly long legs and a thick, pointed bill. The male oriole is slightly larger than the female, although the size dimorphism is minimal by icterid standards. Adults always have white bars on the wings. The adult male is orange on the underparts, shoulder patch and rump, with some birds appearing a very deep flaming orange and others appearing yellowish-orange. All of the rest of the male’s plumage is black. The adult female is yellow-brown on the upper parts with darker wings, and dull orange-yellow on the breast and belly. The juvenile Oriole is similar-looking to the female, with males taking until the fall of their second year to reach adult plumage. [Wikipedia]
The rich, whistling song of the Baltimore Oriole, echoing from treetops near homes and parks, is a sweet herald of spring in eastern North America. Look way up to find these singers: the male’s brilliant orange plumage blazes from high branches like a torch. Nearby, you might spot the female weaving her remarkable hanging nest from slender fibers. Fond of fruit and nectar as well as insects, Baltimore Orioles are easily lured to backyard feeders. [All About Birds]
Baltimore Oriole Facts [All About Birds]
- Baltimore Orioles got their name from their bold orange-and-black plumage: they sport the same colors as the heraldic crest of England’s Baltimore family (who also gave their name to Maryland’s largest city).
- Unlike robins and many other fruit-eating birds, Baltimore Orioles seem to prefer only ripe, dark-colored fruit. Orioles seek out the darkest mulberries, the reddest cherries, and the deepest-purple grapes, and will ignore green grapes and yellow cherries even if they are ripe.
- The orioles of the Americas were named after similar-looking birds in the Old World, but the two groups are not closely related. Orioles of the Old World are in the family Oriolidae, whereas American orioles are in the same family as blackbirds and meadowlarks. Both New and Old World orioles are brightly colored with red, yellow, and black; have long tails and long pointed bills; build hanging, woven nests; and prefer tall trees around open areas.
- The oldest recorded Baltimore Oriole was over 12 years old when it was caught and killed by a raptor in Minnesota.