Baltimore Oriole: Migrant Monday

Welcome to another edition of Migration Monday! Our featured bird this week is the Baltimore Oriole.

Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula)

Description:

Baltimore Orioles are medium-sized songbirds that visit the Eastern United States in spring and summer. The males have bold plumage- flaming orange underparts contrasted with black upperparts. They have slender bodies, thick necks, and sharp blackbills. They also have white marking on their wings. The females are more of a duller yellow-orange with an olive-gray head and backs. Their bills are a silvery-gray and their tails are orange. The females also have white wingbars.

Range:

Medium to long-distant migrants who travel in flocks. Winter: Central America and South America. Summer: Eastern to Midwestern United States and parts of Canada. Migration: Southeastern and parts of Midwestern United Station.

Habitat:

Open woodlands, deciduous trees, orchards, backyards, parks, and along rivers.

Food:

They mainly eat insects, nectar, and fruit. Their diet varies by season. In the spring and fall  they eat a lot of nectar and fruits since these sugary foods give them energy for migration. In the summer and while raising young they mainly eat insects.

Breeding/Nesting:

During courtship a male will face the female, stretches upright, then bow down deeply with his tail and wings spread. He will sing to defend his territory.The female will weave a hanging nest in a deciduous tree. She will position small fibers and randomly poke at the fibers will her bill. Although she is not deliberately making knots, poking the fibers will cause them to make knots. She builds the nest in a span of a week in 3 steps: weaving the outer bowl, weaving the inner bowl, and finally adding a soft down lining. Sometimes the male will bring her new nest material, but the female will usually recycle material from an old nest.

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Male at a hanging nest (Image by Gary Tyson via allaboutbirds.org)

Baltimore Orioles have one brood a year with a clutch size of 3-7 eggs. The female will incubate the eggs between 12-14 days. Both parents will feed the nestlings, who will fledge in around 12-14 days after hatching.

Song:

Clear, flute-like whistles that vary by individuals. Like the Northern Cardinals female Baltimore Orioles will sing. Her songs are shorter, and sometimes the male and female will communicate as a duet.

Fun Facts:

  • The Baltimore Oriole was named after England’s Baltimore family, whose crest colors were orange and black. This is the same family that the Maryland city of Baltimore is named for.
  • Young male Baltimore Orioles do not molt into their bright orange until they are around two years old. Young males will be a drab yellow-orange like the females. However, even without bright breeding plumage, some first year males have been successful with mating.
  • Baltimore Orioles and their cousins, the Bullock’s Oriole of the west, were once considered one species called the Northern Oriole. Since their range overlaps they sometimes interbreed, but Bullock’s are distinct because they have orange faces instead of black faces.
  • Baltimore Orioles will sometimes use their bills to make a movement called gaping. They will stab their closed bills into a piece of fruit, take off a small juicy piece, then drink from it with their brushy tongues.
  • They prefer dark-colored ripe fruits. They will ignore bright fruits even if they are ripe in favor for dark-colored ones.
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Baltimore Oriole (Image by Garrick Fields via fallsoftheohio.org)

Have Baltimore Oriole migrated to your area yet?

 

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Author: BirdNation

I am an avid birder, teacher, and nature lover. I primarily birdwatch throughout New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania.

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