10 Surprising Facts About Orioles

Get surprising facts about orioles, some of spring's most gorgeous birds. Learn how they build unique nests, how their call sounds, and more!

Orioles Build Unique Nests

Orioles construct a hanging, gourd-shaped nest at the end of a tree branch in spring. They do not use nesting boxes, but will nest in your yard if you have fairly tall trees nearby. It usually takes female orioles about a week to build a nest, but in bad weather, it can take as long as 15 days. Females are known for their skill at weaving. They weave a nest about 4 inches deep and 4 inches across, with a small opening at the top about 2 to 3 inches wide.

Many North American Oriole Species

The Baltimore and Bullock’s oriole were considered the same species, called the Northern oriole, until the 1990s when genetic testing helped separate them. As many as nine different types of orioles will show up in North America, but of those, only five are common: the Bullock’s, Baltimore, hooded, orchard and Scott’s.

Farmers Don’t Like Orioles

Many fruit growers think of orioles as pests, because, with their love of sweet treats, they can wipe out crops. Five fruits you’ll often see them munching are raspberries, crabapples, grapes, mulberries and cherries.

Orioles Are Not Actually Orioles

Though given the common name “oriole”, American orioles are not actually a part of the oriole family, Oriolidae. True orioles are native to the Old World, and our American birds were named because of their resemblance to these European cousins. Orioles are in the blackbird family.

Size and Wingspan

Orioles average about 8 inches long, similar in size to red-winged blackbirds, and a good 1 to 3 inches shorter than robins. Their wingspan is around 11-1/2 inches. The orchard oriole is smaller.

Differences Between Male and Female Orioles

Adult males are much more brightly colored than females. Look for distinctive markings to identify them. The male Baltimore oriole has full black hood and fire-orange plumage. The female is drab yellow with dusky-brown wings. Young males do not grow their full adult plumage until their second fall.

Orioles Don’t Eat Birdseed

If you want to attract these colorful fliers to your yard, learn the foods orioles like to eat. Backyard birders should offer sugar water, oranges and grape jelly.

Oriole Song and Sounds

A Baltimore oriole song is a series of rich whistled notes interspersed with rattles. Their call sounds like a chatter. Listen to a sound clip.

Where Do Orioles Go in Winter?

The Baltimore oriole winters in Florida and Central America. It migrates north starting in late winter, arriving in the southeast throughout April to begin mating and nesting. But some lately are staying put year-round, provided they can find enough food. Learn more about Baltimore oriole migration.

Common Backyard Birds

Their preferred habitat is the edges of forests, and open areas with tall trees. Orioles are very common in suburban parks and backyards.

Jill Staake
Jill lives in Tampa, Florida, and writes about gardening, butterflies, outdoor projects and birding. When she's not gardening, you'll find he reading, traveling and happily digging her toes into the sand on the beach.