.Northern Oriole

Icterus galbula

by Vanessa R. Hartley

Many people think of the Northern Oriole as the mascot for the Baltimore Orioles baseball team. The male birds have a black head as well as back, wings, and tails. Their underparts, shoulder, and rump are orange. The female orioles take a different appearance. She is brownish gray with a dull yellowish breast and under tail. Both the male and the female are about nine inches in length and have long bills that are thin and very pointed and sharp.

The Northern Oriole is in the kingdom Animalia and the phylum Chordata. They are vertebrates that are in the class Aves, which all birds are in. They belong to the family Emberizidae (Blackbirds) and their order is known as Passeriformes (perching birds).

The Northern Oriole is mainly found in open areas that contain groups of large deciduous trees. Most often they are found along streams. During the summer months, they are found across the United States. When winter comes, the birds flock to southern Mexico. In general, most Northern Orioles are found east of the Mississippi River.

Northern Orioles feed on many things. The most common are insects such as beetles, bugs, moths, and caterpillars. In fact, caterpillars make up 33% of their diet. The birds also feed on fruit such as garden peas as well as nectar from plums, cherries, serviceberries, and blueberries. The oriole can be attracted to home feeders with special nectar feeders or oranges that have been split in half.

The most interesting fact about the bird is that it makes a beautiful nest. Most often, the nest is as high as thirty feet above the ground. The trees that are frequently chosen are cottonwoods, poplars, maples, birch, alder, and oaks. When laying eggs, the females normally lay four to six eggs in a hanging nest. The eggs are incubated for twelve to fourteen days.

After the birds have hatched, both the parents care for the young until they leave the nest. The young will remain in the nest for about two weeks. During this time, the whole family will stay together. After the young spends their two weeks in the nest, they will leave and the family will be divided.

Written fall 2000, as a service learning project for Dr. Gary Coté's Biology 102 class at Radford University. Copyright Pathways for Radford.

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