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When Do Baltimore Orioles Return Each Year?

As spring arrives so to do the migrating songbirds. Surely one of the most eagerly anticipated arrivals is that of the Baltimore Oriole. These beautiful birds not only have vibrant orange, black and yellow plumage, but they also have very melodious songs and weave intricate basket nests. In this article we will take a look at when you can expect the arrival of Baltimore Orioles in your region, as well as learn additional facts about their migration, nesting habits, and how you can attract them. 

Where do Baltimore Orioles spend the winter?

These colorful birds spend the winter from southern Mexico, down through all of Central America and into Venezuela and Columbia. They also enjoy the warm climate of all the Caribbean islands and Florida. Some vagrants might be spotted in the U.S. during the winter along the east coast or Gulf coast, but overall is it fairly rare for them to remain in the states during the winter anywhere other than Florida. 

When do Baltimore Orioles Migrate in the Spring?

Migration begins in March when some of the orioles furthest south begin to head north from South American to southern Mexico. But April is really when the action begins. By the first week of April the orioles are hitting the Gulf coast of the U.S. and blazing north, reaching the central states by mid to late April. They continue their journey north, reaching New England, the Great Lakes and Canada by in early to mid May. 

baltimore orioles at feeder DeNoiseAI standard
Baltimore Orioles at orange feeder | image via Deposit Photos

When will Baltimore Orioles Return to My State?

Let’s look at the Baltimore Oriole’s schedule from region to region. 


Florida has its own schedule when it comes to these orioles. You’re most likely to see them here during the winter months (November through March), and then a sharp decrease in April as they begin to head north. By May most of the orioles will be gone from the state.  


The southeastern states (excluding Florida) will start seeing Baltimore Orioles in the beginning of April with most arriving by mid to late April. However, not all of the southeast will be able to enjoy these orioles all summer. As April becomes May, they will largely disappear from the Atlantic coast and Gulf coast, moving further inland. So if you live in a coastal state, unless you are far inland your best bet to be on the lookout for orioles is April.    

Western portions of Virginia, and the Carolina’s, as well as northern portions of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana will continue to have Baltimore Orioles throughout the spring and summer season. The interior states of Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia and Arkansas will begin to see orioles in mid April, reaching the apex in May. Baltimore Orioles will remain throughout these states all spring and summer.


Baltimore Orioles will begin trickling into the midwest by early to mid April. Kansas, Missouri and the southern portions of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio will see them first, but they will quickly spread north through mid to late April. States furthest north like Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota may not see any orioles until early to mid May. Baltimore Orioles spend their whole breeding season in the midwest, so by May they are in place and ready to nest.

For the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas, Baltimore Oriole activity will be higher in the eastern part of the state. In western parts of these states, the most activity will be seen in April during migration, and will then decline in May as the birds settle further east.


Baltimore Orioles remain throughout all of the northeastern states to breed during the spring and summer. It just takes them a little longer to travel there. Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey will see them first around mid to late April, while the New England states will mainly see them arrive in May. 

Southwest and West

While Baltimore Orioles don’t nest in the west, you may be able to see some if you live in a state within their migration path. Eastern parts of Texas, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana can all see Baltimore Orioles in April as they migrate through. The far northern border of Montana may even get some Baltimore Orioles in May that remain to nest for the whole season, since there is a large population that breed in Alberta and Saskatchewan. 

Attracting Baltimore Orioles To Your Yard

oriole on nectar feeder
Baltimore Oriole on a nectar feeder | image via Deposit Photos

Attracting Baltimore Orioles to your backyard can be a rewarding experience. Here are some effective ways to attract them:

  1. Offer Suitable Foods:
    • Nectar Feeders: Baltimore Orioles are attracted to nectar, similar to hummingbirds. They may drink from hummingbird feeders but prefer feeders with larger perches and slightly larger drinking holes. They are a much bigger bird after all! You can easily purchase an oriole feeder, and they are usually colored orange to help attract them. For orioles you can create a slightly less sweet nectar of 1:5 or 1:6 ratio of sugar to water, which more closely mimics the natural fruits they like.
    • Jelly Stations: Offering smooth grape jelly in small dishes or specially designed jelly feeders can be very effective. Be sure to provide only small amounts at a time to prevent spoilage. 
    • Fruit Halves: Orioles love fresh fruit. Halve oranges and impale them on a spike or lay them on a feeder tray. Apples, bananas and purple grapes are also popular.
  2. Provide Water Sources:
    • Orioles enjoy shallow birdbaths with clean water for drinking and bathing. Adding a dripper, fountain or mister to your birdbath can make it even more attractive to these birds, as they like the sound of moving water.
  3. Plant Native Trees and Shrubs:
    • Planting native fruit-bearing trees and shrubs such as crabapples, cherries, and serviceberries can provide natural food sources. These plants also attract insects, a crucial protein source, especially during the breeding season.
  4. Install Oriole Nesting Material Dispensers:
    • Encourage orioles to nest in your area by hanging fibers such as cotton threads, pet fur, or natural twine. Avoid using plastic or synthetic materials, which can be harmful.
  5. Position Feeders Strategically:
    • Place feeders in a quiet area of your garden yet visible from the sky, as orioles are more likely to notice them while flying overhead. Ensure the area is free from predators and provides a quick escape route to nearby trees for cover.

If you plan on offering feeders or fruits, make sure they are out and ready early in migration season. For most folks this will be mid April, while those in the north can wait until early May. We’ve had the most success attracting orioles soon after their arrival. By late May and June when they are busy with nesting and raising young, they may not visit feeders as regularly unless they nest close to your house. 

Tips for Spotting Baltimore Orioles In The Wild

baltimore oriole flowers
Baltimore Oriole on flowering Tree | image via Deposit Photos

Orioles can be found in parks, along rivers and in many places that you may spend time in walking, hiking or participating in spring and summer activities. Here are some tips to increase your chances of seeing these colorful birds:

  1. Know the Season: As we discussed earlier in this article, know when to except orioles in your local area. 
  2. Look in the Right Habitats: Baltimore Orioles prefer open woodlands, riverbanks, and orchards. They are also commonly found in suburban areas, particularly in gardens and parks that have tall deciduous trees.
  3. Search the Treetops: Orioles often stay high in the canopy, so it’s helpful to scan the treetops rather than just looking at lower levels. They’re especially visible when perched on the edges of leaves or when flying between trees. Looking for that bright orange belly certainly helps!
  4. Listen for Their Song: Learning the song of the Baltimore Oriole can be very helpful. Their song is a series of clear, flutelike whistles, which can vary but typically include short phrases and pairs of notes. Males sing loud and clear, so if you know what to listen for you’ll be able to hear when they are around and you can start scanning the trees.
  5. Use Binoculars: Since orioles can be shy and often stay high in trees, a good pair of binoculars is essential to get a clear view.
  6. Follow Their Diet: During early spring, look for orioles near flowering trees and shrubs as they seek out nectar and small insects that are attracted to the blossoms. Later in the season, they also eat insects and fruit, so areas with fruit-bearing trees and bushes, like mulberries and cherries, can be good spots to watch.
  7. Be Patient and Quiet: Orioles can be cautious and may not come out into the open if there’s a lot of noise or movement. Being patient and minimizing disturbances can help provide a sighting opportunity.

Baltimore Oriole Nesting

male baltimore oriole in front of nest
Baltimore Oriole in front of a still in-progress nest | image by Andrew Weitzel via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Nest Construction

Construction of the nest begins with the female choosing a suitable site. The site will be located within the territory that her partner defends. Preference is given to trees like elms, maples, and cottonwoods, usually overhanging an open space which may help in deterring predators. The location is also chosen for its height, usually between 20-30 feet off the ground, which provides an additional layer of protection.

The nest itself is an engineering marvel, constructed using a variety of materials including grass, strips of bark, vine tendrils, and found, man-made objects like fishing line and twine. The female meticulously weaves these materials into a pouch-shaped structure that hangs below a branch, securing it to the branches with tight knots. The nest is lined with softer materials such as feathers and fluff to provide a comfortable cushion for the eggs and the young birds.

This labor-intensive process can take 1-2 weeks, with the female working for long periods each day until the nest is complete. The end result is a sturdy, flexible nest that can sway safely with the wind while remaining attached securely to the tree branches. Most nests are completed in May. 

Rearing the Young

Baltimore Orioles usually only raise one group of babies each year. They lay 3-7 eggs at a time that can appear grayish or bluish in color with brown speckles. Eggs are incubated for 11-14 days, and it take another 11-14 days after hatching for the young to fledge the nest. Most baby orioles hatch during the month of June, so look for youngsters from mid June to early July.

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