Discover How Orioles Weave Elaborate Nests

Oriole nests are unique and different from other bird nests. Learn where and how orioles build nests and what they look like.

oriole nestCourtesy Esther Bartels
A female oriole sitting in its nest in a city park in Iowa

Orioles are the seamstresses of the bird world. Oriole nests are marvels of avian architecture: hanging pouches or bags of tightly woven plant fibers, attached by their edges and suspended from twigs. Check out 8 different kinds of bird nests and how to spot them.

What Does an Oriole Nest Look Like?

Female orioles are remarkable builders known for their skill at weaving. Orioles use whatever material is available—long grasses, twine, even horsehair. The pouches are lined with soft materials such as plant fibers, feathers or animal wool. Oriole nests measure about 4 inches deep and 4 inches across, with a small opening at the top about 2 to 3 inches wide. Many are deeper than they are wide. The Altamira oriole of extreme south Texas and Central America constructs one of the longest dangling nests, which can hang down more than 2 feet. Learn how to attract orioles to your backyard.

Altamira Oriole in the NestBirdImages/Getty Images
Altamira oriole

Where Do Orioles Nest?

Orioles do not use birdhouses, but will raise a family in your yard if you have fairly tall trees nearby. Many orioles look for tall deciduous trees. Despite their distinctive appearance, oriole nests can be hard to spot. They’re often surrounded by heavy foliage. Backyard birders often discover one in their trees only after the leaves have fallen in autumn. Orioles construct their pendulous sac-shaped nests on the ends of slender branches. This precarious placement keeps the eggs and babies relatively safe from climbing predators and other nest robbers. Learn how to identify Baltimore oriole eggs by color and size.

Baltimore Oriole Nests

Like the other types of orioles, Baltimore orioles gather fibers, including twine and string, to create gourd-shaped pouches hanging from the tips of branches in spring. A male Baltimore oriole doesn’t take part in building or incubation. But after the eggs hatch, he brings almost half the food for the youngsters. Check out more surprising Baltimore oriole facts.

Oriole Nest Building

The female works on the pouch from the inside. She forms the bottom to the shape of her body. It usually takes female orioles about a week to build a nest. But in bad weather, it can take as long as 12 to 15 days. It might even take a female Altamira oriole up to three weeks.

Wondering what orioles eat? Learn how to feed orioles.

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Lori Vanover
Lori Vanover is the senior digital editor for Birds & Blooms. She has a bachelor's degree in agricultural and environmental communications from the University of Illinois. Lori is certified as a Wisconsin Extension Master Gardener and is also a member of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology.