- Orchard Oriole
 - Orchard Oriole
 - Orchard Oriole
 - Orchard Oriole (Orchard)

Orchard Oriole Icterus spurius Scientific name definitions

William C. Scharf and Josef Kren
Version: 2.0 — Published November 18, 2022
Revision Notes

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A widely distributed breeder east of the Rocky Mountains, the Orchard Oriole is associated with open woodlands, orchards, shrublands, shade trees in agricultural and suburban areas, wooded riparian areas, lakeshores, and marshes, and forest edges. It often nests in shade trees, seeming to thrive in habitats with low human density, including farms and parklands. It consumes mostly arthropods, gleaned from foliage, but also eats small ripe fruits and nectar when available. This species is only loosely territorial and is a solitary breeder in most habitats, though it is often described as “semi-colonial” in areas of prime habitat. Areas of dense nesting often have multiple nests per tree that can be seen when trees are leafless.

The Orchard Oriole overwinters in shrubby second-growth, open woodland, forest edge, clearings with scattered trees, and cultivated areas from central Mexico to Panama and, more rarely, northwestern South America. It leaves its overwintering grounds in March and April, sometimes returning south as early as mid-July. It nests relatively late in the northern part of its range where it raises only a single brood, presumably to accommodate the migratory schedule. The short time period spent on the breeding grounds has made it difficult to assign museum specimens to breeding localities and many presumed breeding specimens may actually be passage migrants. Double-brooding has been documented in Maryland and may occur more often than currently known in southern breeding areas.

This species exhibits delayed plumage maturation in males, with adults (Definitive Basic Plumage) having distinctive black and chestnut plumage, and first-year males (Formative Plumage) having yellow and greenish plumage and a black throat. Adult females (Definitive Basic) and juveniles of both sexes (Juvenile Plumage), are similar to first-year males but lack the black throat. Sexual dichromatism allows easy separation of two age-classes of males from females during all seasons, which makes this an excellent species for modeling demographic dynamics.

Breeding biology has been studied in Nebraska (1, 2), Illinois (3, 4), Manitoba (5), Arkansas (6), the Mississippi Delta (7), Maryland (8), Florida (9), and Sinaloa, Mexico (10). The adaptive significance of delayed plumage maturation in males has been the focus of several studies (3, 4, 11, 12). Other research has examined spring and summer food habits and diet (13, 14), and feeding and dominance hierarchies in Neotropical overwintering habitats (15, 16).

Distribution of the Orchard Oriole - Range Map
  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding
Distribution of the Orchard Oriole

Recommended Citation

Scharf, W. C. and J. Kren (2022). Orchard Oriole (Icterus spurius), version 2.0. In Birds of the World (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.orcori.02