My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Baltimore Oriole, Icterus galbula

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Baltimore Oriole, Icterus galbula

A species known for both its brilliant colors, and its beautiful song. The male sings a loud flutey whistle, with a buzzy, bold quality, and is a beloved, familiar sound in much of the eastern United States. The male typically sings from the tree canopy and his song often gives away the bird’s location before any sighting can be made.

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.

They forage in trees and shrubs, also making short flights to catch insects. They acrobatically clamber, hover and hang among foliage as they comb high branches. They mainly eat insects, berries and nectar, and are often seen sipping at hummingbird feeders. Their favored prey is perhaps the Forest Tent Caterpillar Moth, which they typically eat in their larval stage, and can be a nuisance species if not naturally regulated by predation. The larvae caterpillar are beaten against a branch until their protective hairs are skinned off before being eaten. Unlike American Robins and many other fruit-eating birds, Baltimore Orioles seem to prefer only ripe, dark-colored fruit. Orioles seek out the darkest mulberries, the reddest cherries, and the deepest-purple grapes, and will ignore green grapes and yellow cherries even if they are ripe. Baltimore Orioles sometimes use their bills in an unusual way, called “gaping”: they stab their closed bill into soft fruits, then open their mouths to cut a juicy swath from which they drink with their tongues. During spring and fall, nectar, fruit and other sugary foods are readily converted into fat, which supplies energy for migration.

Many people now attract Baltimore Orioles to their backyards with oriole feeders. Oriole feeders contain essentially the same food as hummingbird feeders, but are designed for orioles, and are orange instead of red and have larger perches. Baltimore Orioles are also fond of halved oranges or grape jelly.

On to the photos:

Male Baltimore Oriole singing

Male Baltimore Oriole singing

Female Baltimore Oriole gathering insects

Female Baltimore Oriole gathering insects

Male Baltimore Oriole

Male Baltimore Oriole

Male Baltimore Oriole

Male Baltimore Oriole

Male Baltimore Oriole

Male Baltimore Oriole

This is number 46 in my photo life list, only 304 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!



7 responses

  1. I wish we would see such amazing creatures farther west. I really enjoyed the photos and the information. Thank you for sharing.

    March 3, 2013 at 3:17 pm

  2. What a colourful bird.

    March 3, 2013 at 5:35 pm

  3. When I was a kid, before Dutch elm disease wiped the elms out, Baltimore Orioles used to build their hanging basket nests in our big old elm trees, so this is one bird I’ve seen a lot of. Not lately though.

    March 3, 2013 at 6:38 pm

  4. Now it’s time for me to jealous ! I’ve only seen an oriole twice and briefly over 12 years. Great captures!

    March 4, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    • Thanks! You need to look in the tops of deciduous trees and listen for the males singing in the spring. Another hint, note if and where you see their hanging nests over the winter. They won’t reuse a nest, but they will nest in the same areas, often in the same tree.

      March 5, 2013 at 1:29 am

  5. I am still trying to even just sight one of these! And I only live 50 miles from Baltimore, giggle giggle.

    March 5, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    • Thanks, like I replied to Emily, look and listen for the males in the tops of trees, and their empty nests in the winter so you’ll know where to look in the spring.

      March 6, 2013 at 2:46 am