Baltimore Oriole

Hey guys, welcome back! Today is a really cool, brightly colored bird: the Baltimore oriole. A brilliant orange and black, the Baltimore oriole was once known by a different name, the northern oriole. The northern oriole’s range covered most of the continental US. Birds in the west, despite being considered the same species, looked little like their eastern counterparts. Eventually, genetic testing revealed that while the two forms interbred quite extensively where their ranges overlapped, they were different species. The western version became the Bullock’s oriole, and the eastern became the Baltimore oriole. The two were only considered the same species for about 20 years, starting in the 1970s when this hybridizing became apparent.

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Baltimore oriole, Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY

Now, you may think that because there’s a Major League Baseball team named the Baltimore Orioles, that this bird may have been named for it, but it is in fact the other way around. The flag of the state of Maryland, as well as their coat of arms is orange and black, which stems from Cecil Calvert, Lord of Baltimore, proprietor of the colony of Maryland back in the 1600s. So when they find an orange and black bird in a colony with an orange and black coat of arms, well they name the bird for it.

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Juvenile Baltimore oriole taking a bath in the Ravine, Central Park, NY

Baltimore orioles eat insects, but also love nectar and fruit. You can buy oriole feeders at the store, and they look like larger, orange hummingbird feeders. Another way to attract them to your yard is to put out slices of oranges! They also build really cool hanging nests that look like little baskets hanging from a branch. They were named orioles because they share all the traits I just mentioned with the orioles of Eurasia. However, our orioles in the Americas are actually in the blackbird family!

Baltimore oriole, Forest Park, St. Louis, MO

Baltimore orioles are one of my favorite springtime (and summertime) birds. I remember the first one I ever saw was in my backyard when I was a teenager cutting the grass. I didn’t know they were real! I thought they were just a baseball mascot! It would be many years before I saw one again, and I never tire of it. They’re often heard well before they’re seen. They love the tip top of the trees, and have a loud, clear voice that carries a long distance. So if you hear one, even if it sounds close, it might still be a ways away! Next up, we head back to the warbler world for a striking bird that loves the forest understory. See you then!

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