Meet 8 Types of Orioles to Look for Across America

Updated: Feb. 26, 2024

Get to know eight types of orioles seen throughout the U.S. and what makes each of these orange and yellow birds stand out.

types of oriolesCourtesy Debbie Parker
Male Baltimore oriole in crabapple tree

The word “oriole” originally came from a Latin term meaning “the golden one.” Although the name was first applied to an unrelated group of birds in Europe, Asia and Africa, it’s perfectly appropriate for the types of American orioles. These birds belong to the blackbird family (along with grackles, red-winged blackbirds and meadowlarks). They have the same sharply pointed beaks typical of that family.

Eight oriole species are found regularly north of the Mexican border, and you can find at least one or two of these in almost any area of the United States during summer. Many male orioles in northern locations are more brightly patterned than females, but the sexes often look the same among those seen further south.

Female orioles build impressive nests. They weave plant fibers into a cup or a hanging pouch that’s often suspended near the end of a branch, hidden by leaves, providing a cradle for the young that’s safe from most predators.

Here’s where and how to spot the types of orioles regularly found in the U.S. and Canada.

Baltimore Oriole

Baltoriolecrabapple 7948 ReadMarie Read
Male Baltimore oriole

As early as the 1720s, people in the eastern colonies called this species the Baltimore bird. The male’s orange and black colors suggested the coat of arms of a British nobleman, Lord Baltimore, the same person for whom the city in Maryland was named. The term oriole wasn’t added to the bird’s name until decades later. Baltimore orioles are common in summer across most of the eastern states and southeastern Canada, with smaller numbers spending the winter in the southeastern states.

When will Baltimore orioles arrive in spring?

Bullock’s Oriole

Bullock's Oriole Perching In Cottonwood Tree   VerticalWilliam Leaman / Alamy Stock Photo
Male Bullock’s oriole in cottonwood tree 

The Baltimore oriole’s close relative, the Bullock’s oriole replaces it in the western half of the continent. Where the two types meet on the western Great Plains, they often interbreed, producing hybrids that look intermediate between their parents. For several years, the two types of orioles were combined as one species under the name of northern oriole but were later separated. Bullock’s and Baltimore orioles have similar habits, often nesting in backyard shade trees.

Orchard Oriole

Orchard OrioleRichard Buquoi
Orchard oriole in mulberry tree

The well-named orchard oriole favors short trees and semi-open areas, such as orchards or the edges of woods, rather than the interior of tall forests. Widespread in summer in states east of the Rockies but barely reaching Canada, this oriole is most common in the South. It’s this continent’s smallest oriole, barely over 7 inches long. Adult males are patterned with dark chestnut instead of orange or yellow, while females are yellow-green.

Orchard Oriole, Icterus Spurius, Female Bird Perching In Springtimepchoui/Getty Images
Female orchard oriole in redbud

Birders are sometimes confused by 1-year-old male orchard orioles, which are colored like the females, but with a black throat. Like adult males, they perch on low trees to sing rapid, jumbled songs. Even where this species is very common, it may migrate south early, leaving before the middle of August.

Learn how to attract orioles to your backyard.

Scott’s Oriole

Oriolescottschollaseedpod D 25326Steve and Dave Maslowski
Male Scott’s oriole on cholla cactus fruit

The rich, warbling song of the Scott’s oriole carries far across the foothills of this bird’s summer home in the Southwest. This yellow-and black bird lives in various habitats, from juniper or oak woods to desert grassland. Most often it’s found where yuccas grow. With their long, stiff, pointed leaves, these plants provide sturdy fibers for nest materials. More importantly, the spiny tips of their leaves deter most predators. In one study in southern New Mexico, every Scott’s oriole nest found was tucked in the leaves of a yucca plant.

Not every orange and yellow bird is an oriole. Discover 10 birds that look like orioles.

Hooded Oriole

hooded oriole, types of oriolesRichard Day/Daybreak Imagery
Male hooded oriole in whitethorn acacia 

Across the Southwest, from Texas to California, hooded orioles are prevalent during summer. Males sport black throats and orange hoods, while females are plainer yellow. Although females may build their cup-shaped nests in a variety of trees, including sycamores or cottonwoods, they have a clear preference for palm trees, especially in California. Long, strong fibers pulled from the edges of palm leaves make excellent building materials, and nests attached to the underside of a palm leaf stay well protected from the weather

What does a Baltimore oriole song sound like?

Audubon’s Oriole

Audubon's Oriole, Icterus
Audubon’s oriole in Mexican olive tree

Slow, hesitant notes, sounding like a child learning to whistle, may reveal a pair of Audubon’s orioles in the woods of central or southern Texas. Unlike other orioles, they stay fairly low in the trees and seem shy. Males and females feature similar patterns. Look for a black head, wings and tail contrasting with the yellow body feathers. The females’ colors tend to be duller. They stay year-round in Texas, and pairs are often seen together.

Learn how to identify baby orioles and juvenile orioles.

Altamira Oriole

Atamira oriole Icterus Gularis Is A Tropical Songbird With A Beautiful Striking Orange Yellow And Black Plumage Found Only In South Texas In The United States And Then Down Into Mexico And Central AmericaDave Welling
Atamira oriole with nest

Many types of orioles live in the American tropics. One that barely reaches our borders, the Altamira oriole, is locally common throughout the year in the Rio Grande Valley of southernmost Texas. It’s the largest oriole species in the U.S., up to 10 inches from bill tip to tail tip. Altamira males and females wear the same bright orange and black pattern. These orioles make the largest nest too, which they weave from plant fibers. Look for a narrow hanging bag, 1 to 2 feet long, suspended from the tip of a branch or sometimes a telephone wire.

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

Spot-Breasted Oriole

Spot Breasted Oriole, types of oriolesMark Newman/Getty Images
Spot-breasted oriole

Native to Central America, this large oriole was once kept as a cage bird. In the 1940s, a few escaped from captivity in Florida and began nesting in the wild. They are still locally common along shady suburban streets from Miami to West Palm Beach. Males and females look the same in bright orange and black with telltale black spots at the sides of the chest.

Learn how to make easy DIY oriole feeders.

Expert Tips to Attract Orioles

Bullock's and Baltimore oriole hybrid on trumpet vine, types of oriolesJuan Anaya
Bullock’s and Baltimore oriole hybrid on trumpet vine

No matter where you are, orioles are probably nearby in spring and summer. Watch for these flashy birds in your backyard or a favorite birding spot. And in autumn, after the leaves fall, look for their marvelous hanging nests that remain among the bare branches. The Kaufmans share four easy ways to welcome these birds to your yard:

  1. Plant the trees that orioles favor for nesting, including elms and cottonwoods (where permitted), or native palms in warmer climates.
  2. Put out oranges cut in half.
  3. Fill sugar-water feeders. They attract orioles, especially if the feeders have convenient perches.
  4. Serve small amounts of grape jelly each day. Think of it as a treat for them rather than a full meal.

About the Experts

Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman are the official birding experts for Birds & Blooms and the creators of the Kaufman Field Guide series.

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