Male. Note: black head and orangish body.
  • Female
  • Male
  • Male
  • Male. Note: black head and orangish body.
  • Female. Note: browish-yellow head and orange-yellow breast.
  • 1st year male. Note: black spotching on head and back.

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Baltimore Oriole

Icterus galbula
Members of this diverse group make up more than half of the bird species worldwide. Most are small. However their brains are relatively large and their learning abilities are greater than those of most other birds. Passerine birds are divided into two suborders, the suboscines and the oscines. Oscines are capable of more complex song, and are considered the true songbirds. In Washington, the tyrant flycatchers are the only suboscines; the remaining 27 families are oscines.
This New World family of medium and large songbirds is very familiar, as most species are common inhabitants in human-altered settings. Many are partly to entirely black, often with iridescence or bright markings of some sort. Most blackbird species form flocks at certain times of the year, and many form multispecies flocks. Blackbirds live in open habitats and eat seeds, grain, and insects. They often forage in agricultural areas, where they can be considered pests. These birds generally forage on the ground where they are well adapted for a behavior called gaping. They insert their long, slender bills into the ground, and then open their bills to get at underground insects. Blackbirds also use this technique to get into fruits and some insects, and to reach insects that are cocooned inside wrapped leaves. Most build open-cup nests in trees, shrubs, or on the ground. Many members of this family are polygynous. Females generally build the nests and incubate the eggs, and males help feed the young.
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General Description

The Baltimore Oriole breeds across southern Canada and the United States east of the Rocky Mountains and winters mostly from central Mexico to northwestern South America. It hybridizes with Bullock’s Oriole in a narrow zone where their ranges meet in the Great Plains, and as a result, the two were once lumped together as a single species (“Northern Oriole”). However, the American Ornithologists’ Union split them again in 1995 on the basis of genetic studies that showed them not even to be one another’s nearest relatives.

The adult male Baltimore Oriole is bright orange with a black hood and back and a large white wingbar. The adult female has a grayish crown and back and two white wingbars. The underparts range in coloration from almost as bright orange as the male in some individuals to a light orange-yellow in others. Immatures generally resemble adult females; consult field guides for separating these plumages from Bullock’s and other orioles.

Baltimore Oriole breeds in northeastern British Columbia, east of the Rockies, but occurs only casually elsewhere in the province. Three of Idaho’s four records are from May–June; the other is from mid-August. Washington also has four records, three of them between 31 May and 20 June and the other in early November; two are from east of the Cascades and two are from the Westside. Half of Oregon’s ten records are from fall and winter and the other half are from spring.

Revised November 2007

North American Range Map

North America map legend

Federal Endangered Species ListAudubon/American Bird Conservancy Watch ListState Endangered Species ListAudubon Washington Vulnerable Birds List

View full list of Washington State's Species of Special Concern