Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula)
The Baltimore oriole is a medium-sized songbird, measuring between 6.7 and 7.5 inches (17 to 19 cm) in length. Its wingspan is 9.1 to 11.8 inches (23 to 30 cm). The males are characterized by a brilliant orange color on the chest and a black head. The throat, mantle and wings are also black, while the underparts, shoulders, tip and edges of tail are orange to yellow orange. One of the Baltimore oriole’s identifying characteristics is the white and orange stripe on their folded wing called a wingbar. Their bill is pointed and silvery. The females are similar to the males, except their head and tail are dark brownish olive instead of black and their body is of a paler orange. In addition the white in their shoulders gives them two white wingbars. The song of the Baltimore oriole is a series of rich whistled notes interspersed with rattles. Their call is described as chatter.
This species breeds along woodland edges and open areas with scattered trees, especially deciduous trees. This has enabled them to inhabit parks and wooded urban areas. The Baltimore oriole is a Neotropical migrant. During the winter, these birds migrate to tropical forests and second growth forests in Central America and northern Colombia and Venezuela.
Baltimore orioles feed on caterpillars, fruits, insects, spiders, and nectar. They are considered foliage gleaners as they probe in trees looking for insects.
Predators, including larger birds and mammals, are a greater threat to the eggs, nestlings and fledglings of the Baltimore oriole. As a response, male and female birds have alarm calls and have been known to mob and chase away predators. Baltimore orioles are affected by habitat loss due to deforestation and development. They are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. While a slight decrease in population has been noted, the Baltimore oriole is not listed as an endangered species and the populations are believed to be stable.
Did You Know?
American orioles were named after a similar looking species in Europe. However, genetic studies have shown that they are more closely related to blackbirds and meadowlarks than to the true orioles in the family Oriolidae.
- Cornell Lab of Ornithology: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Baltimore_Oriole/id
- Patuxent Bird Glossary: http://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/id/framlst/i5070id.html
- Kids’ Inquiry of Diverse Species: http://www.biokids.umich.edu/critters/Icterus_galbula/