Orchard Oriole

Common Name: Orchard Oriole.

Scientific Name: Icterus Spurius.

What to look for?  Envision a Baltimore Oriole, but smaller; then swap the flame-orange with deep russet. Adult males are black above and rich russet or reddish-chestnut below. They have a black, rounded head and a black throat. At the bend of the wing is a reddish-chestnut patch. They have medium-length, black tails outlined with a white line. These songbirds have straight, sharply pointed bills. Females are quite different looking. They are olive-yellow overall. They have no black on the head or back. There are two white wing bars. Immature males are greenish yellow like females but have a black throat.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? Like our Baltimore Oriole guests, Orchard Orioles are seasonal visitors to our ponds. They usually appear around early May and will leave by August. If you have hummingbird feeders out, Orchard 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? Orchard Orioles are the smallest of North American orioles. They average approximately six and one-half (6.5) inches in length. And their wingspan is approximately ten (10) inches. They weigh in at around eight-tenths (0.8) of an ounce.

What are their flight patterns? The flight behavior of the Orchard Oriole tends to be swift and direct to their destination with steady, deep wing beats. You may also see them carrying out slow, fluttering flights between tree tops, hovering just before perching. They tend to fly at or below the treetops.

How else do they behave? In good habitats, Orchard Orioles are semicolonial and will build their nests with other orioles in one tree; elsewhere, they are more solitary. They are also relatively unterritorial, showing little aggression toward other birds. They forage among the foliage of trees and bushes in search for insects.

What’s for dinner? Orchard Orioles eat mostly insects such as caterpillars, beetles, and grasshoppers, plus spiders. They will also dine on some fruit and nectar – especially before fall migration. Like Baltimore Orioles, you will find Orchard Orioles at hummingbird feeders.

Where do they take up residence? Orchard Orioles are widespread east of the Great Plains throughout our summer. During our winter, they are found in Central America and northern portions of 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.

When and where do they breed and nest? Orchard Orioles breed in the eastern United States and southern Canada. They build nests in a variety of tree species, including maple, ash, cottonwood, willow, elm, and others. The nests are usually attached to forked twigs or branches away from the main trunk, at varying heights from the ground. Orchard Orioles are monogamous. They are generally considered single-brooders, raising only one brood of offspring per season. Each brood will have three (3) to five (5) eggs. The incubation period is two (2) weeks. The nestlings leave the nest approximately two (2) weeks after hatching.

Where do they migrate? Long distance migratory birds. Orchard 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. to breed. As early as August, they begin their migration for their wintering grounds in central Mexico, Central and northern portions of South America.

What is their conservation status? There is low concern. Orchard Orioles are fairly common, but populations have been slowly declining. The North American Breeding Bird Survey estimates a cumulative decline of 35% between 1966 and 2014. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 10 million with 88% spending some part of the year in the U.S. Orchard orioles are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty. Orchard Oriole is not on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List.

Do they make any interesting sounds? The Orchard Oriole’s song is a series of loud, clear whistles with a sing-song phrasing a soft ‘chuk’ or ‘twee-ohh’. Here is a link to the sounds of the Orchard Oriole.

Interesting Facts About the Orchard Oriole:

  • The Orchard Oriole is the smallest North American oriole.

  • Orchard Orioles are sometimes described as “semi-colonial” with several nests in the same tree. On less suitable habitats, however, they tend to be solitary.

  • A group of orchard orioles are collectively known as a "harvest" of orioles.

  • Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 10 million.

  • Its species name, Spurius, means "illegitimate" in Latin, probably because of its resemblance to the Northern oriole in early descriptions.

  • The oldest Orchard Oriole on record was a male at least 11 years old.

For more information on the Orchard 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, University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web and Bird Watchers Digest.  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!