Baltimore Oriole

Icterus galbula
Baltimore Oriole specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

The bright orange and black Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula) was named in reference to the colors of the coat of arms of the 17th century Lord Baltimore. These orioles are widespread in North America east of the Great Plains during the northern summer and winter mainly from Mexico south to northern Colombia, northern Venezuela, and Trinidad, although small numbers may winter in the southeastern United States and Greater Antilles. As a result of frequent hybridization between the Bullock's (I. bullockii) and Baltimore Orioles where their ranges meet in the Great Plains, these two orioles were at one time treated as conspecific (i.e., members of the same species), representing two forms of a species that was known as the Northern Oriole. However, genetic studies have indicated that these two species are not even each other’s closest relatives (for a full discussion of this issue, see Jacobsen and Omland 2011). Baltimore Orioles breed in deciduous and mixed woodlands, usually in open woods or along edges rather than in the interior of dense forests. They may be common in towns and other relatively developed areas with appropriate trees (especially elms). The familiar nest of the Baltimore Oriole is a hanging pouch woven of plant fibers and may be seen in shade trees in towns and suburbs. The nest is typically attached firmly by its rim near the end of a slender drooping branch 6 to 9 (sometimes 2 to 18 or more) meters above the ground. There are 4 to 5 eggs (range 3 to 6) eggs. Eggs are incubated by the female for around 12 to 14 days. Nestlings are fed by both parents and leave the nest around 12 to 14 days after hatching.The diet include mainly insects in summer, especially caterpillars, including hairy types avoided by many other birds. They also consume many berries and sometimes cultivated fruit. They may feed on nectar from some flowers and will take sugar water at feeders. The liquid, musical tones of the Baltimore Oriole's song floating down from the treetops are a familiar harbinger of spring in the eastern United States. (Kaufman 1996; AOU 1998)

DC Information

Common migrant and rare summer resident April to September. Breeds in shade trees in residential areas, also in open deciduous forests from May to July. The adult male is black and deep orange; the female, tawny olive and yellow.

Specimen Information

Possible record for the bird at the top left
Date:  5/16/1879
Collected By:  Wm Palmer
Locality:  Falls Church, VA
Sex:  Male, Immature
Catalog ID:  236057
Possible record for the bird at the top right
Date:  5/27/1915
Collected By:  WV Cox
Locality:  Washington, DC
Sex:  Female
Catalog ID:  237076
Possible record for the bird in the center, perhaps a female or a juvenile
Date:  Not recorded
Collected By:  Not recorded
Locality:  Not recorded
Sex:  Not recorded
Catalog ID:  235277
The bright orange and black bird in the front is a male.

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC57028 Icterus galbula (Baltimore Oriole)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC57029 Icterus galbula (Baltimore Oriole)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC31069 Icterus galbula (Baltimore Oriole)