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Orchard Oriole

The Orchard Oriole, Icterus spurius, is the smallest North American species of icterid blackbird. The subspecies of the Caribbean coast of Mexico, I. s. fuertesi, is sometimes considered a separate species, the Ochre Oriole.


This species is 6.3 inches long and weighs 20 g. The bill is pointed and black with some blue-gray at the base of the lower mandible (Howell and Webb 1995). The adult male of the nominate subspecies has chestnut on the underparts, shoulder, and rump, with the rest of the plumage black. In the subspecies I. s. fuertesi, the chestnut is replaced with ochre (Howell and Webb 1995). The adult female and the juvenile of both subspecies have olive-green on the upper parts and yellowish on the breast and belly. All adults have pointed bills and white wing bars. (Orchard Orioles are considered to be adults after their second year.) One-year-old males are yellow-greenish with a black bib.

Habitat and range

The breeding habitat is semi-open areas with deciduous trees. I. s. spurius breeds in spring across eastern North America from near the United States-Canada border south to central Mexico. A 2009 study also found breeding in the thorn forest of Baja California Sur and the coast of Sinaloa during the summer "monsoon"; this region had previously been thought to be only a migratory stopover . I. s. fuertesi breeds from southern Tamalulipas to Veracruz (Howell and Webb 1995). These birds enjoy living in shaded trees within parks along lakes and streams. The nest is a tightly woven pouch attached to a fork on a horizontal branch. Their nests tend to sit close together.

The nominate subspecies' winter range extends from the coastal lowlands of central Sinaloa and southern Veracruz south to northern Colombia and northwestern Venezuela (Scharf and Kren 1996). The ochre subspecies has been observed in winter on the Pacific slope of Mexico (Howell and Webb 1995).

Nominate Orchard Orioles depart from their winter habitats in March and April and arrive in their breeding habitats from late April to late May. Usually, they leave their breeding territories in late July and early August and arrive on their winter territories in mid August. These birds are nocturnal migrants.


While in breeding season, they eat insects and spiders. When the season changes, their diet also includes ripe fruit, which quickly passes through their digestive tract. During the winter, their diet consists of fruit, nectar,and insects.


When in flight, Orchard Orioles generally swoop close to the ground and fly at or below treetop level

During courtship, females display themselves in 3 unique ways. The first way is bowing their head and torso toward the male. Seesawing, the second courtship display, involves repetitively alternating lowering and raising the head and tail. The third display is begging, which is fast-paced fluttering of wings halfway extended, followed by a high whistle.


The specific name spurius refers to the original misidentification of the male as a female Baltimore Oriole. These birds are sometimes mistakenly identified as New World warblers.


Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern

(2007): The potential of fruiting trees to enhance converted habitats for migrating birds in southern Mexico. Bird Conservation International 17(1): 45-61. PDF full text

(2003): Birds of Venezuela. Christopher Helm, London. ISBN 0-7136-6418-5

(2009): Migratory double breeding in Neotropical migrant birds. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on line. Abstract, PDF full text (subscription required)

(1996). Orchard Oriole (Icterus spurius), The Birds of North America Online . Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: full text (subscription required)

(1989): A guide to the birds of Costa Rica. Comistock, Ithaca. ISBN 0-8014-9600-4

External links

Orchard Oriole by John Audubon

Orchard Oriole Information and Photos - South Dakota Birds and Birding

Orchard Oriole Species Account - Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Orchard Oriole - Icterus spurius - USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter

Orchard Oriole videos on the Internet Bird Collection

Orchard Oriole photo gallery VIREO

Orchard Oriole Bird Sound


Baker JM, Lopez-Medrano E, Navarro-Siguenza AG, Rojas-Soto OR & Omland KE. (2003). Recent speciation in the Orchard Oriole group: Divergence of Icterus spurius spurius and Icterus spurius fuertesi. Auk. vol 120, no 3. p. 848-859.

Beaton G. (1994). Late Orchard Oriole found in Clayton County. Oriole. vol 59, no 1. p. 25-26.

Binford LC. (1971). Roadrunner Captures Orchard Oriole in California. California Birds. vol 2, no 4.

Bjorklund CF. (1990). Bromhead Saskatchewan Canada Rare Bird Records. Blue Jay. vol 48, no 4. p. 212-217.

DePaul L & Kopitzke D. (1998). Incentives for savanna protection on private lands: Past, present, and future. Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences Arts & Letters. vol 86, no 0. p. 47-56.

Elliott PF. (1978). Cowbird Parasitism in the Kansas USA Tall Grass Prairie. Auk. vol 95, no 1. p. 161-167.

Enstrom DA. (1992). Breeding Season Communication Hypotheses for Delayed Plumage Maturation in Passerines Tests in the Orchard Oriole Icterus-Spurius. Animal Behaviour. vol 43, no 3. p. 463-472.

Enstrom DA. (1992). Delayed Plumage Maturation in the Orchard Oriole Icterus-Spurius Tests of Winter Adaptation Hypotheses. Behavioral Ecology & Sociobiology. vol 30, no 1. p. 35-42.

Enstrom DA. (1993). Female choice for age-specific plumage in the orchard oriole: Implications for delayed plumage maturation. Animal Behaviour. vol 45, no 3. p. 435-442.

Garvin MC, Szell CC & Moore FR. (2006). Blood parasites of Nearctic-Neotropical migrant passerine birds during spring trans-gulf migration: Impact on host body condition. Journal of Parasitology. vol 92, no 5. p. 990-996.

Goertz JW. (1977). Additional Records of Brown-Headed Cowbird Nest Parasitism in Louisiana. Auk. vol 94, no 2. p. 386-389.

Hill RA. (1976). Host Parasite Relationships of the Brown-Headed Cowbird in a Prairie Habitat of West Central Kansas USA. Wilson Bulletin. vol 88, no 4. p. 555-565.

Hilton GM, Atkinson PW, Gray GAL, Arendt WJ & Gibbons DW. (2003). Rapid decline of the volcanically threatened Montserrat oriole. Biol Conserv. vol 111, no 1. p. 79-89.

Hofmann CM, Cronin TW & Omland KE. (2006). Using spectral data to reconstruct evolutionary changes in coloration: Carotenoid color evolution in new world orioles. Evolution. vol 60, no 8. p. 1680-1691.

Hopkins MJ. (1968). A Disputed Nest Site Tyrannus-Tyrannus Icterus-Spurius Behavior. Oriole. vol 33, no 3. p. 37-38.

Leck C. (1974). Further Observations of Nectar Feeding by Orioles. Auk. vol 91, no 1. p. 162-163.

Lee JH, Hassan H, Hill G, Cupp EW, Higazi TB, Mitchell CJ, Godsey MS, Jr. & Unnasch TR. (2002). Identification of mosquito avian-derived blood meals by polymerase chain reaction-heteroduplex analysis. American Journal of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene. vol 66, no 5. p. 599-604.

Lloyd-Evans TL & Atwood JL. (2004). 32 years of changes in passerine numbers during spring and fall migrations in coastal Massachusetts. Wilson Bulletin. vol 116, no 1. p. 1-16.

Lohrer FE. (1977). Orchard Oriole Holding Food with the Feet. Florida Field Naturalist. vol 5, no 2.

Luterbach B. (1999). Orchard Orioles increase within Tyvan area, Saskatchewan. Blue Jay. vol 57, no 3. p. 150-151.

Mills ED & Rogers DTJ. (1990). Nearctic Passerine Fall Migration in Central Belize. Wilson Bulletin. vol 102, no 1. p. 146-150.


Parkes KC. (1990). Additional Record of Birds from the Distrito Federal Mexico Including a Possible Hybrid Spizella. Condor. vol 92, no 4. p. 1080-1081.

Quintana-Barrios L, Ruiz-Campos G, Unitt P & Erickson RA. (2006). Update on the birds of Isla Guadalupe, Baja California. Western Birds. vol 37, no 1. p. 23-36.

Schaefer VH. (1976). Geographic Variation in the Placement and Structure of Oriole Nests. Condor. vol 78, no 4. p. 443-448.

Scharf WC & Kren J. (1997). Summer diet of orchard orioles in southwestern Nebraska. Southwestern Naturalist. vol 42, no 2. p. 127-131.

Sealy SG. (1980). Breeding Biology of Orchard Orioles Icterus-Spurius in a New Population in Manitoba Canada. Canadian Field Naturalist. vol 94, no 2. p. 154-158.

Sealy SG & Underwood TJ. (2004). Accepters and rejecters of cowbird parasitism in the New World orioles (Icterus spp.). Ornitologia Neotropical. vol 15, no 3. p. 331-347.

Short LL. (1974). Nesting of Southern Sonoran Birds During the Summer Rainy Season. Condor. vol 76, no 1. p. 21-32.

Stevenson HM. (1979). Southward Extension of Orchard Oriole Icterus-Spurius Breeding Range in Florida USA. Florida Field Naturalist. vol 7, no 1. p. 10-11.

Twedt DJ & Somershoe SG. (2003). Breeding birds on reforested bottomlands in forested and agricultural landscapes. Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting Abstracts. vol 88, no 339.

Van Dyke F, Van Kley SE, Page CE & Van Beek JG. (2004). Restoration efforts for plant and bird communities in tallgrass prairies using prescribed burning and mowing. Restoration Ecology. vol 12, no 4. p. 575-585.

VanderWerf EA & Freed LA. (2003). Elepaio subadult plumages reduce aggression through graded status-signaling, not mimicry. Journal of Field Ornithology. vol 74, no 4. p. 406-415.

Whitehead MA, Schweitzer SH & Post W. (2002). Cowbird/host interactions in a southeastern old-field: A recent contact area?. Journal of Field Ornithology. vol 73, no 4. p. 379-386.

Wormington A & Lamond W. (1987). Orchard Oriole New to Northern Ontario Canada. Ontario Birds. vol 5, no 1. p. 32-34. -->

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Orchard Oriole

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