Illustration by Peter Burke
The Baltimore oriole is the common oriole throughout much of the east. Monotypic. Length 8.7" (22 cm).
Identification Long wings; relatively short tail; straight, sharply pointed largely blue-gray bill with a blackish culmen; blue-gray legs. Adult male: orange, with black hood and back. Wings black with orange shoulder, white lower wing bar, crisp white fringes to flight feathers. Tail black with black-based orange outer rectrices. Female: variable. Some like male, but usually lack solid black head and have greenish orange tail. Typical female orange below, with brownish orange face and back, spotted or blotched dark on back and crown. Wings blackish with 2 white wing bars (upper 1 wider), white fringes to flight feathers. Immature male: variable. Like female, but no black on face, more extensively orange below, bill often with pinkish or orange tone. Juvenile: duller than immature, olive back lacking streaking, and dull, narrow buffy wing bars. Pink tone to bill obvious.
Similar Species The male orchard and Scott’s orioles are similar to a male Baltimore; however, they lack orange below and on the distal portion of the outer tail feathers. A female Scott’s, yellowish below with a characteristic greenish gray color on face and upperbreast, somewhat resembles typical female and immature Baltimores, which show a darker face contrasting with orange or yellow malar and throat and dusky spotting or blotching on upperparts. A dull Baltimore is very similar to a Bullock’s oriole. A female orchard oriole is yellow below and greenish above, slimmer, and smaller; an immature male has a crisp black bib.
Voice Call: a whistled hew-li and a dry chatter. Song: a series of musical, sweet whistles; quite variable.
Status and Distribution Common. Breeding: deciduous forest, forest-edge parkland, riparian forest. Migration: northbound along Gulf Coast, but many are trans-Gulf migrants. Arrive Gulf Coast by early April, and Canada by early May. Southbound late July–early August, peaking late August–early September in north, and mid-September–mid-October on Gulf Coast. Winter: from southern Mexico to northern South America in moist forest and shade coffee plantations. A small number in the United States south and Florida, largely in urban settings. Vagrant: rare in NF and Canada; casual to Pacific Northwest and western Europe.
Population Despite a small decline from the 1980s to the mid-1990s, the species is not of conservation concern.
—From the National Geographic book Complete Birds of North America, 2006
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