Discover How Orioles Weave Elaborate Nests

An oriole nest is unique and different from other bird nests. Learn where and how orioles weave their nests and what the pouches look like.

Orioles are the seamstresses of the bird world. An oriole nest is a marvel of avian architecture: a hanging pouch or bag of tightly woven plant fibers, attached by the edges and suspended from twigs. Learn more about how these birds weave these unique structures.

Find out how to attract orioles to your backyard.

What Does an Oriole Nest Look Like?

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

Female orioles are remarkable builders known for their skill at weaving. Orioles use whatever nesting 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.

Meet the bold and beautiful Bullock’s oriole.

Where Do Orioles Nest?

Altamira Oriole in the NestBirdImages/Getty Images
Altamira oriole in a 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.

Feeding orioles: what do orioles eat?

Oriole Nest Building

307031874 1 Carla  Ginn Bnb Pc 2022Courtesy Carla Ginn
Female orchard oriole weaving a nest pouch

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.

“What a wonderful Mother’s Day treat, watching this beautiful female orchard oriole (above) preparing to become a mother herself. I was walking in the backyard of my northern Kentucky home, taking in all of the sights and sounds of Spring. A flash of yellow-orange caught my eye. As usual, I had my Canon EOS 7D Mark II camera with me and got to photograph her amazing nest building skills. She would swoop and dive, flutter and twist. In just minutes, I could see the nest pouch taking shape. This is an experience I won’t soon forget,” says reader Carla Ginn.

Psst—orioles can’t resist this oriole nectar recipe.

Baltimore Oriole Nests

309865933 1 David Woten Bnb Pc 2022Courtesy David Woten
Baltimore oriole nest with fledglings

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.

“A friend notified me of a Baltimore oriole nest (above), so I rushed to the location. Never did I expect to find such a great view of the family. The adults made several trips to feed the babies. In this image, taken with a Nikon D850 camera and Tamron 150-600 mm lens, I captured the young ones fighting for food. They fledged later that day,” says reader David Woten of Baden, Pennsylvania.

Next, learn how to identify baby orioles and juvenile orioles.

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.