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Tropical Visitor

Jun 25, 2018

See if you can find this colorful traveler in your neighborhood.

Look in the shade trees along your city street or behind your house.  You might notice the orange and black feathers of a northern oriole flashing among the leaves.  This tropical bird, sometimes called the Baltimore Oriole, spends the winter in Central America and migrates to the midwest each summer to breed.  

Orioles need to live where they can find a steady diet of insects and fruit. In the midwest, these foods are available only during the warmer months.  Oranges and grape jelly have successfully been used to attract orioles to backyards.  You can learn more on how to attract them in the video below.

During August, orioles migrate to tropical areas in countries such as Costa Rica and Panama.  There, closer to the equator, they can find the food they need to survive until they migrate north again in spring, to nest.

Material sourced from former MDC Ornithologist, Brad Jacobs.

Oh, the Oriole!

  • Finding an oriole's nest in summer isn't easy. Hidden in the upper branches of a tall maple or elm, the nest looks like a gray basket, woven of milkweed silk, plant fibers, and hair. 
  • Baltimore orioles nest throughout the eastern U.S. and into Canada, then migrate south for winter. Wintering habitat includes scattered trees and woodland borders from Mexico to Colombia and Venezuela.
  • Usually, you’ll hear the male oriole’s loud, flutelike whistle before you see the bird.
  • You may see the oriole listed in some field guides as the "northern oriole," because taxonomists had, for a time, considered the Baltimore oriole (of the eastern U.S.) and the very similar Bullock's oriole (of the west) as merely two "forms" or "races" of the same species, and grouped both together under the name "northern oriole.”

Discover more about the Baltimore oriole by visiting the MDC’s Field Guide


Photo of male Baltimore oriole perched on branch
Baltimore Oriole Male
Male Baltimore oriole.

How to Attract Orioles to Your Yard

Learn how to attract orioles to your yard with this video from Purina Mills TV
Learn how to attract orioles to your yard with this video from Purina Mills TV

Baltimore Oriole 7 IN Song.mp3

Listen to the sounds of Baltimore Orioles from the Cornell Audio Library


Baltimore oriole eating orange from a feeder
Baltimore Oriole
A Baltimore oriole drinks juice from an orange. These brilliant songbirds also eat nectar and insects.


"Finding an oriole's nest in summer isn't easy. Hidden in the upper branches of a tall maple or elm, the nest looks like a gray basket, woven of milkweed silk, plant fibers, and hair." I loved seeing orioles when I visited my family farm as a kid. Their color is simply amazing!

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