Orioles are dramatic and vibrantly colored songbirds that live across North America. Orioles are often described as “flame-colored”, due to their beautiful bright yellow and orange feathers. These interesting birds eat fruit, insects and nectar, and weave hanging baskets for nests. Out of the 16 species of orioles found across North America, we are going to look at the nine types of orioles found in the United States.
9 Types of Orioles in the United States
Out of the many oriole species that can be found in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, only nine of them are regular visitors to the United States. Let’s take a closer look at each of these nine species, and then stay tuned at the end of the article for tips on how to attract orioles to your yard.
1. Audubon’s Oriole
Scientific name: Icterus graduacauda
The Audubon’s oriole is native to Mexico and parts of southern Texas. Both males and females have the same plumage, which is unusual for orioles. Their body is lemon yellow, while their head, wings and tail is black. Both sexes also sing songs, especially during the mating season.
These insect eating orioles live in the open woodlands common to these areas. They prefer to glean insects off of leaves and branches in the thickets of tropical and semitropical forests. Despite their bright color, they blend in easily with thick foliage.
2. Hooded Oriole
Scientific name: Icterus cucullatus
The hooded oriole has a longer and more slender body shape than many other oriole species. Males have black and white wings, yellow to orange bodies and a black patch that extends from their face down onto their chest. Females are olive-yellow all over with gray wings.
Instead of building a nest on top of a branch or leaf, they build a suspended net-like basket that is made of plants and grasses. They are sometimes called ‘palm-leaf orioles’ because they hang these nest-baskets from the underside of palm fronds.
Hooded orioles can be found in coastal and southern California, southern Nevada, and parts of southern Arizona and New Mexico during the summer. They move further south to Mexico for the winter.
3. Altamira Oriole
Scientific name: Icterus gularis
The Altamira oriole is a large flame-colored oriole that lives mostly in Mexico and Central America, but can also be found in southern Texas. In fact, they are considered the largest oriole species in the United States.
Males and females of this species have the same plumage, and resemble the hooded oriole but with slightly less black on their face. Their preferred habitat is arid scrubland and dry woodland.
Females are master nest builders. Like most orioles, they weave hanging nests instead of nests balanced in the fork of tree branches. These hanging nests can measure over two feet long, and sometimes hang from utility wires!
4. Spot-breasted Oriole
Scientific name: Icterus pectoralis
This bird is the least common species of oriole in the United States, and is only seen in southeastern Florida. After it was introduced to Miami in the 1940s, it adjusted well and now has a self-sustaining population in that area. Its native home is the southwestern coast of Mexico and Central America.
This oriole is aptly named, since it has black spots on its bright orange breast. This makes it easy to spot when it perches in neighborhood foliage and in urban jungles. They make suburban neighborhoods their home and can stand out since they’re so brightly colored.
Males and females have similar plumage.
5. Orchard Oriole
Scientific name: Icterus spurius
The orchard oriole lives in the eastern United States during the summer, then heads south from Mexico to northern South America for the winter.
While most male orioles are bright yellow or orange, the male orchard oriole is much more rusty colored. They have a black head and wings, but their body is a reddish-rusty orange, closer to an American robin. Females however are similar to other oriole females, with an all-over grayish-yellow body and gray wings.
The orchard oriole is the smallest of the U.S. orioles, falling between the size of a sparrow and a robin. They love bushes alongside streams or scattered stands of trees in open meadows.
6. Bullock’s Oriole
Scientific name: Icterus bullockii
The Bullock’s Oriole is the most common oriole in the western United States. Populations are most concentrated along the Pacific Coast and the Rockies. They are slightly less common in the Great Plains. They come to the U.S. during the spring and summer breeding season, then head back down to Mexico for the winter.
Males are bright yellowish-orange, with black on the top of their head and a black line through the eye. Their wings are black with a large white patch. Females look quite different, with a gray back, white belly, and pale yellowish-orange head and tail.
The bullock’s oriole prefers larger trees than the orchard oriole. They like the trees to be spaced apart or clustered together in a clump with more open land surrounding them. Sycamore, willow and cottonwood are common trees they choose for nesting.
7. Baltimore Oriole
Scientific name: Icterus galbula
You may think this colorful oriole is named after Baltimore, Maryland. Technically, their name comes from their resemblance to the colors on the coat-of-arms of 17th century Englishman, Lord Baltimore. However, the Maryland city was named after him, so it’s all connected.
Males are flame-colored, except for a black back and head. Females look similar to other sexually-dimorphic oriole species, a yellowish body with gray back and wings.
Baltimore orioles are common in the eastern United States during the summer, especially further north. In the winter you can find them in Florida, the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America and parts of northern South America.
Unlike many other oriole species that will eat just about any kind of fruit, the Baltimore oriole tends to prefer only the darkest color fruits like mulberries, dark cherries and purple grapes. However you can still attract them to your yard with oranges, and we’ll talk more about that below.
8. Scott’s Oriole
Scientific name: Icterus parisorum
If you live in the Southwest, it’s possible that you might see a Scott’s oriole foraging for insects and berries among the yucca and juniper present in the area. This oriole relies especially on yucca for its food and nest fibers.
Look for them during the summer in parts of California, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
Males have a black head, chest and back, with a brilliant yellow belly, shoulders, and tail. They can be heard singing practically around the clock. When the male sings, the female will often answer, even if she’s sitting on her nest. Females are an olive-yellow all over with grayish back and wings.
9. Streak-backed Oriole
Scientific name: Icterus pustulatus
While almost all the other male orioles on this list have solid black upper backs, the streak-backed oriole has a bright back with black streaks. The definition of the streaks can vary, with northern populations tending to have less streaks and southern having more. Sexes are similar with a flame colored body and black wings, with a black eye mask and throat patch.
These orioles are common along the Pacific coast of Mexico and Central America, in tropical lowlands. They do sometimes visit the southwestern United States.
All Oriole Species in North America
While we took at look at nine of the oriole species you are most likely to see in the United States, there are an additional seven oriole species found in North America. These seven are visitors or residents to Mexico, but rarely, if ever, come up into the United States. Below is a full list of the 16 oriole species in North America, with the nine that visit the U.S. listed first.
- Audubons Oriole
- Hooded Oriole
- Altamira Oriole
- Spot-breasted Oriole
- Orchard Oriole
- Bullock’s Oriole
- Baltimore Oriole
- Scott’s Oriole
- Streak-backed Oriole
- Black-vented Oriole
- Bar-winged Oriole
- Black-cowled Oriole
- Yellow-backed Oriole
- Yellow-tailed Oriole
- Orange Oriole
- Black-backed Oriole
Attracting Orioles To Your Yard
Because orioles mainly eat insects, fruits and flower nectar, bird seed feeders aren’t going to attract them. However, most species will visit your backyard if you offer them sugary foods.
The most popular foods to leave out to attract orioles to your backyard are grape jelly, oranges, and nectar.
- Grape jelly: feed smooth grape jelly in a small dish, only leave out as much as can be eaten in a day and put out fresh jelly each day. This avoids spoiling and bacteria growth. Look for no sugar added and organic jelly when possible.
- Grapes: Even healthier for the birds than jelly, chop up some grapes and offer those!
- Oranges: cut an orange in half, simple as that! Hang it from a pole, or even impale it on nearby tree branches. As long as it’s visible to the birds and secure enough to stay put.
- Nectar: you can make your own nectar the same way you make hummingbird nectar, only with a lower sugar ratio of 1:6 (sugar:water) rather than the 1:4 ratio for hummingbirds. The nectar feeder for orioles will have to have a large perch and large size feeding holes to accommodate their beak size.