Orchard Oriole, Icterus spurius

Orchard Oriole, Icterus spurius

The Orchard Oriole swaps the typical flame-orange of other orioles for a deep, burnished russet. Hopping among riverine shrubs or scattered trees, male Orchard Orioles sing a whistled, chattering song to attract yellow-green females.

The smallest of North America’s orioles, it gleans insects from foliage and builds hanging, pouchlike nests during its brief breeding season, and then heads back to Central America for the rest of the year. Orchard Orioles also feed on fruit and nectar in orchards, gardens, and elsewhere.

Orchard Orioles can be inconspicuous despite being fairly common. Look for them in the tops of scattered trees or in open woods. Listen for their songs, which are sweet whistles that may at first sound like other familiar birds such as robins or grosbeaks. Listen for harsh churrs and chatters interspersed with the sweet notes to help distinguish this species.


Loud rich varied whistled notes, accelerating into a jumbled ending with a slurred wheer!, sounding like look here, what cheer; wee yo, what cheer; whip yo, what cheer!. Class sharp musical chuck and a dry chattering chu-huh-huh-huh.


Solitary or in pairs in the breeding season. In small family groups after nesting. Vocal and often conspicuous. Relatively approachable. Forages at middle to high levels in trees and shrubs, often at tips of branches. Hops from branch to branch. Easts insects, berries, flower parts, nectar and fruits.


Orchard Oriole, Icterus spurius, identification graphic Orchard Orioles are slim songbirds, larger than warblers and vireos. They have medium-length tails, rounded heads, and a straight, sharply pointed bill.

  Length: 5.9-7.1 in (15-18 cm)
  Weight: 0.6-1.0 oz (16-28 g)
  Wingspan: 9.8 in (25 cm)

  Color Pattern

Adult males are black above and rich reddish-chestnut below. They have a black head and throat, with a reddish-chestnut patch at the bend of the wing. Females are greenish yellow with two white wing bars and no black. Immature males look like females, but have black around the bill and throat.


Monogamous. Solitary and loose colonies


Orchard Oriole, Icterus spurius, with nest Orchard Orioles build nests in a variety of tree species, including maple, ash, cottonwood, willow, elm, white pine, Norway spruce, oak, magnolia, and pecan. The nests are usually attached to forked twigs or branches away from the main trunk, at varying heights from the ground.

The female does most of the nest building, completing the project in about 6 days. Suspended from a forked twig, the nest is woven from long blades of green grass that turn yellow as they dry, and usually lined with fine grasses, plant down, catkins, cotton, animal wool, bits of yarn, and feathers. It measures about 4 inches across and 3 inches deep on the outside, with an inner cup measuring 2.5 inches across and 2 inches deep. The eggs are usually visible through the loosely woven nest bottom.

Incubation is 12-14 days by female. Altricial youg brooded by female, some by male.. Young stay in the nest 11-14 days and are fed by both sexes. Mates often divide fledglings and care for them separately, but family group remains intact until fall migration. There is one brood per year.

  Flight Pattern

Swift, strong and direct flight on rapidly beating wings.


Common to fairly common in open woodland, farmlands, scrub/mesquite, shade trees and orchards. Species declining in part of its western range.

  Bird Feeders

Fruit and nectar.


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