The Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula) is a small icterid blackbird that commonly occurs in eastern North America as a migratory breeding bird. This bird received its name from the fact that the male's colors resemble those on the coat-of-arms of Lord Baltimore. Like all icterids called "orioles",
it is named after an unrelated, physically similar family found in the Old
World: the Oriolidae.
This medium-sized passerine measures 17–22 cm (6.7–8.7 in) in length and spans
23–32 cm (9.1–13 in) across the wings. Their build is typical of icterids, as
they have a sturdy body, a longish tail, fairly long legs and a thick, pointed
bill. The body weight averages 33.8 g (1.19 oz), with a range of weights from
22.3 to 42 g (0.79 to 1.5 oz). The male oriole is slightly larger than the
female, although the size dimorphism is minimal by icterid standards.
Adults always have white bars on the wings. The adult male is orange on the underparts
shoulder patch and rump, with some birds appearing a very deep flaming orange
and others appearing yellowish-orange. All of the rest of the male's plumage
is black. The adult female is yellow-brown on the upper parts with darker wings,
and dull orange-yellow on the breast and belly. The juvenile oriole is similar-looking
to the female, with males taking until the fall of their second year to reach
These birds are found in the Nearctic in summer, primarily the eastern United
States and Canada. They breed from Ontario,Wisconsin to Maine and south to central
Mississippi and Alabama and northern Georgia. They migrate to winter in the neotropics
as far north as Mexico and sometimes the southern coast of the United States
but predominantly in Central America and northern South America. Some areas of
the southern United States may retain orioles all winter if they have feeders
that appeal to them.
Baltimore Orioles are often found high up in large, leafy deciduous trees, but
do not generally reside in deep forests.
The species has been found in summer
and migration in open woodland, forest edge, and partially wooded wetlands or
stands of trees along rivers. They are very adaptable and can breed in a variety
of secondary habitats. In recent times, they are often found in orchards, farmland,
urban parks and suburban landscapes as long as they retain woodlots. In Mexico,
they winter in flowering canopy trees, often over shade coffee plantations.