Male. Note: dark rufous body.
  • Male. Note: dark rufous body.
  • Female. Note: white wing bars and greenish body.
  • 1st year male. Note: black throat and lores.

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Orchard Oriole

Icterus spurius
Members of this diverse group make up more than half of the bird species worldwide. Most are small. However their brains are relatively large and their learning abilities are greater than those of most other birds. Passerine birds are divided into two suborders, the suboscines and the oscines. Oscines are capable of more complex song, and are considered the true songbirds. In Washington, the tyrant flycatchers are the only suboscines; the remaining 27 families are oscines.
This New World family of medium and large songbirds is very familiar, as most species are common inhabitants in human-altered settings. Many are partly to entirely black, often with iridescence or bright markings of some sort. Most blackbird species form flocks at certain times of the year, and many form multispecies flocks. Blackbirds live in open habitats and eat seeds, grain, and insects. They often forage in agricultural areas, where they can be considered pests. These birds generally forage on the ground where they are well adapted for a behavior called gaping. They insert their long, slender bills into the ground, and then open their bills to get at underground insects. Blackbirds also use this technique to get into fruits and some insects, and to reach insects that are cocooned inside wrapped leaves. Most build open-cup nests in trees, shrubs, or on the ground. Many members of this family are polygynous. Females generally build the nests and incubate the eggs, and males help feed the young.

    General Description

    With its black head, throat, and back, and chestnut underparts, the adult male is unmistakable. Adult females and first-winter birds are quite plain, however: olive-green above, lighter greenish-yellow below, with two white wingbars. The bill is thin, sharply pointed, and slightly downcurved, which helps distinguish this small oriole from warblers. Birds other than adult males may easily be confused with comparable plumages of Hooded Oriole, which has a longer tail and a longer bill. Consult field guides for other subtle distinctions.

    The Orchard Oriole is a common breeder in open woods and edge habitats south of the boreal forest zone, across the United States from the Great Plains to the Atlantic Seabord and southward to the central plateau of Mexico. It winters from Mexico to northwestern South America and is a casual to accidental vagrant in the Pacific Northwest. British Columbia has a single record (Saltspring Island in May) and Idaho has none. Two of the three records so far accepted for Washington are from the Westside in fall and early winter; the other is from the Eastside in June. Oregon’s seven accepted records occurred on both sides of the Cascades and in all seasons except summer.

    Revised November 2007

    North American Range Map

    North America map legend

    Federal Endangered Species ListAudubon/American Bird Conservancy Watch ListState Endangered Species ListAudubon Washington Vulnerable Birds List

    View full list of Washington State's Species of Special Concern