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Baltimore Oriole

Common Name: Baltimore Oriole.

Scientific Name: Icterus Galbula.

What to look for?  Look for a sturdy, medium-sized bird with a stunning, blazing orange body and a black head. The adult male Baltimore Oriole has an entirely black head and back with an orange rump. Its wings are black with a white bar running across and its outer tail feathers are orange. Females and young males are less striking in appearance, with yellowish-orange and dark gray or brown plumage. Both males and females have long legs and sharp beaks.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? Baltimore Orioles are seasonal visitors to our ponds. You may hear their rich, whistling song in the spring. They usually appear around April and will leave in August. If you have hummingbird feeders out, Baltimore Orioles will frequent them. Or you may see them perched at the tops of trees or flitting through the upper branches in search of insects.

How big are they? The Baltimore Oriole averages around seven inches in length. And their wingspan is approximately ten inches. They weigh in at around 1 ¼ ounces.

What are their flight patterns? Their flight patterns tend to be swift and direct to their destination with rapid wing beats. You may also see Baltimore Oriole carrying out slow, fluttering flights between tree tops.

How else do they behave? Baltimore Orioles are easily lured to backyard feeders. Listen for their distinctive chatter. They’re often seen perched at the tops of trees. You may also spot them plucking fruit from vines and bushes.

What’s for dinner? Baltimore Orioles eat insects, fruit, and nectar. Their diet varies by season. During the summer months when they breed and are feeding their young, more of their diet consists of insects, which are rich in the proteins needed for growth. In spring and fall time frame, nectar and ripe fruits comprise more of the diet as these sugary foods are converted into fat that supplies energy for their upcoming migration.

Where do they take up residence? Baltimore Orioles are widespread east of the Great Plains. They are found in Central and South America. They reside in open woodland, along the forest edge, in orchards, and stands of trees along rivers, in parks, and in backyards. They are not found in deep forests. On their winter vacations in Central America, Baltimore Orioles apparently have a penchant for shade-grown coffee and cacao plantations!

When and where do they breed and nest? Baltimore Orioles primarily nest in American elms or sometimes in maples and cottonwoods. The nest is firmly anchored to a fork in the slender upper branches of a tree. The distinctive nest – a sock-shaped pouch woven of grasses and other materials - usually hangs below a branch. Breeding season is in the spring.

Where do they migrate? Baltimore Orioles spend summer and winter in entirely different areas. From early April to late May, flocks of these birds begin to arrive in eastern and central U.S. (they are not generally found west of the Great Plains) to breed. As early as August, they begin their migration for their wintering grounds in Mexico, Central and South America. In the U.S., they may also winter in Florida (just like the White Sox used to do!).

What is their conservation status? There is low concern. According to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, the Baltimore Oriole has seen declining populations. Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 12 million.

Do they make any interesting sounds? The male Baltimore Oriole sings to establish and defend a breeding area in the spring. The sound is a flute-like, whistling tone that consists of a short series of paired notes, repeated multiple times but lasting only a few seconds. They also give a staccato chatter during aggressive encounters. Here is a link to the sounds of the Baltimore Oriole.

Interesting Facts About the Baltimore Oriole:

  • State of Maryland's official state bird.

  • Namesake of a professional baseball team, the Baltimore Orioles

  • They were named because its coloring is similar to the colors on the heraldic crest of Lord Baltimore.

  • They seem to prefer only ripe, dark-colored fruit.

  • Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 12 million.

  • The oldest recorded Baltimore Oriole was over 12 years old.

For more information on the Baltimore Oriole and sources of information used in this blog (these are the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit All About Birds, Audubon Society, National Geographic and National Wildlife Federation.  And the Cornell Lab of Ornithology provides a wonderful source of information for anyone interested in learning more about birds.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, plants and insects. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.


Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!

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