Oriole, the name of two different kinds of birds. One kind make up the family Oriolidae and are found only in the Old World. The other kind belong to the genus Icterus (family Icteridae) and are found only in the New World. Although all orioles have melodious songs and are somewhat similar in appearance, the two groups are not closely related.

The Baltimore OrioleThe Baltimore Oriole is famous for its bright orange breast.
Old World Orioles

These birds are forest dwellers, living, feeding, and breeding in the treetops. There are about 30 species, found in Asia, Africa, Europe, and Australia, usually in tropical or subtropical regions. They range in length from 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 cm). In almost all species, the sexes differ in color. Most males are yellow and black, the females and juveniles a dull greenish color. Included in this family are the figbirds of Australia and New Guinea and the golden oriole, which breeds in Europe and winters in Africa, south of the Sahara.

New World Orioles

There are about 40 species and numerous subspecies in the genus Icterus, most of them found in tropical regions. Some, such as the orchard oriole, Baltimore oriole, and Bullock's oriole, migrate north into the United States and Canada to nest.

The orchard oriole, found primarily in the eastern United States, is from 6 to 7 1/4 inches (15 to 18.5 cm) long. The male is black above with deep chestnut underparts; the female is greenish above, yellow below. The nest, holding four to seven eggs, is a basketlike pouch suspended from a branch.

The orchard orioleThe orchard oriole has black-brown or green-yellow plumage.

The Baltimore oriole, found in the eastern United States and southern Canada, is from seven to eight inches (18 to 20 cm) long. The male has a black head and orange breast. The female is olive brown and lays four to six eggs in a baglike nest suspended from a tree limb.

Who is the Baltimore Oriole?

Like the robin, the Baltimore oriole is famous for its bright orange breast. But the male oriole’s wings and back are mostly black. The female’s wings and back are mostly brown.

The female Baltimore oriole builds a deep nest. The nest is about 6 inches (15 centimeters) from top to bottom. It is shaped like a purse. It may be made from grapevine, bark strips, plant fibers, string, yarn, or hair. The nest hangs from the tip of a tree limb, safe from most enemies.

Bullock's oriole, found mainly in the western United States, is similar to the Baltimore oriole, except that the male has a black crown and orange cheeks.

One of the most colorful of the South American orioles is the troupial. It is orange and black with a blue triangle behind each eye and white wing patches.

Figbirds belong to the genus Sphecotheres The golden oriole is Oriolus oriolus; the orchard oriole, lcterus spurius;the Baltimore oriole, I. galbula, Bullock's oriole. I bullocki; and the troupial, I. icterus. Some biologists consider the Baltimore oriole and Bullock's oriole to be the same species—the northern oriole. I. galbula.