There are two species of Oriole in New Jersey, the Baltimore Oriole and the Orchard Oriole. Both of them return to New Jersey in late April and early May; they winter from Mexico to South America. The picture to the left is a Baltimore Oriole.
WHERE TO SEE THEM
Baltimore Orioles prefer parks and suburbs with tall deciduous trees. In New Jersey they can be found in most of the State and County Parks (and maybe in your backyard). The Orchard Oriole prefers a habitat with more open fields, shrubs, and smaller trees. In Monmouth County, they've been seen in Thompson Park, Dorbrook Park, and the farmlands of the western portion of the County.
WHERE THEY NEST
Baltimore Orioles build hanging basket-type nests in large trees, typically 15-30 feet above the ground. While the nests are difficult to spot in the summer, they are more easily seen after the leaves fall off the trees. Orchard Orioles typically nest in shrubs and small trees, closer to the ground; their nest is similar in shape to that of the Baltimore Oriole.
WHAT THEY EAT
Insects are the biggest part of the diet of both the Baltimore and Orchard Oriole. They eat pest species such as tent caterpillars and gypsy moths. Both species also enjoy fruit and can be attracted to your yard by offering orange slices and grape jelly. The Baltimore Oriole also eats nectar from a variety of flowers and may be attracted to a nectar feeder.
Select these links to learn more about the Baltimore Oriole and the Orchard Oriole.
One of North America’s most popular fruit-eating birds is the oriole. Of our nine species, the Baltimore is common and widespread in the east while the Bullock’s is common in the west.
Baltimore and Bullock’s Orioles were once considered the same species and called Northern Orioles. Though they do inter-breed in areas where their ranges overlap, genetic studies show them to be two distinct species. The Baltimore Oriole was named for George Calvert, Baron of Baltimore, whose livery stable was yellow and black. The Bullock’s Oriole was named after William Bullock and his son, for their ornithological work in Mexico in the early 1800s.
Oriole nests are woven with thousands of stitches and the tying of thousands of knots, all done solely with its beak. Orioles take as many as 15 days to weave their nests and the results are engineering masterpieces – woven hanging-basket nests made of plant fiber, grasses, vine and tree bark. Nests are hung on small branches six to 45 feet in the air, keeping them safe from predators. Female orioles do most of the nest building and are the only one to incubate and brood, while both parents feed the young which fledge about 30 days from egg laying.
You can help to supply them with additional nesting materials by providing natural fiber yarn, twine or string pieces in lengths of less than six inches.
Fun Facts About Orioles
- Orioles are insect and fruit eaters. They usually stay hidden in the trees eating and singing their beautiful whistling notes. They can be drawn down from their perches with foods like orange slices, grape jelly, mealworms and nectar feeders.
- When not feeding on nectar, orioles seek out caterpillars, fruits, insects, and spiders.
- Unlike many insect eating birds, Baltimore Orioles will eat spiny or hairy caterpillars, including such pest species as fall webworms, tent caterpillars, and gypsy moths.
- Bullock’s Orioles may feed almost entirely on grasshoppers when they are plentiful, one bird was found to have feasted on 45 of them in one day.
- While in their tropical winter habitats, Baltimore and Bullock’s Orioles feed on nectar from numerous flowering trees, which explains their attraction to nectar feeders upon their spring-time return to North America.
- While in their tropical winter habitat, the Baltimore and Bullock’s Oriole play an important role in pollinating several tree species as they transfer pollen from tree to tree while eating nectar from their flowers.
- Most male Baltimore Oriole songs vary enough from one another as to be unique to each individual. It is believed females can identify and locate their mate by its distinct song.
- The Oriole nest is an engineering masterpiece. They weave a hanging-basket nest with plant fibers, grasses, vine and tree bark and sometimes string or yarn placed out on the small twigs of a branch 6-45 feet in the air. This keeps them safe from most predators.
- It takes as many as 12 days for an Oriole to weave its nest. One Baltimore Oriole was observed spending 40 hours building a nest with about 10,000 stitches and the tying of thousands of knots, all with its beak.
- The female Baltimore Oriole builds her nest with little or no help from its mate. Only the female incubates and broods, both feed the young.
- The female Bullock’s Oriole is the primary nest weaver, but she may get some help from her mate in both the weaving and collection of nest material. Only the female incubates and broods, both feed the young.
- While modern day Oriole nests are made primarily of plant fibers, Oriole nests collected in the late 1800s, before the age of the automobile, were made almost exclusively of horsehair.
- Orioles will lay 4-5 eggs anywhere from April to June. The young will fledge as late as 30 days from egg laying.
- Orioles are found across North America in the summer. Some species winter in the tropics and others in Mexico.
- Most Baltimore Orioles spend their winters in southern Mexico, Central America and the tropics, but some will stay in the southern states of the U.S., with a few reports as far north as New England.
- Most Bullock’s Orioles spend their winters in central and southern Mexico, with a few staying along the coast of southern California.
- Both the Bullock’s and Baltimore Orioles start their southerly migration as early as July, with August being the prime migration month.
- Bullock’s and Baltimore Orioles migrate at night and are known to be victims of collisions with buildings and communication towers.
- The Baltimore Oriole was named in the early 1600s for George Calvert, Baron of Baltimore, whose livery stable was painted bright yellow and black.
- The Oriole is the state bird of Maryland.
- The Bullock’s Oriole was named in honor of William Bullock and his son, also named William, for their ornithological work in Mexico in the early 1800s.
- The Baltimore Oriole is a common inhabitant of suburban landscapes due to is preference for open settings that are bordered with mature trees.
- The Baltimore Oriole, found in the east, and the western Bullock’s Oriole were once considered to be the same species under the name Northern Oriole. While they do inter-breed in areas where their ranges overlap, genetic studies have shown them to be two distinct species.
- Oriole’s are a member of Icteridae family, meaning that their closest bird relatives include meadowlarks, blackbirds, bobolinks and grackles.
- The oriole gets its name from the Latin aureolus, which means golden.
- In areas with high quality habitat, Orchard Orioles may nest in close proximity to each other; a single tree may even contain several nests.
- The Scott's Oriole, a summer resident of the Southwest U.S., weaves its nest out of fibers from yucca plant leaves.
- Orioles appear to be sensitive to the spraying of pesticides, with birds succumbing directly from the poison and from the loss of their insect food sources.
- The oldest banded Baltimore Oriole recaptured in the wild had lived 11 years and 7 months.
- The oldest banded Orchard Oriole ever recaptured in the wild had lived 9 years and 3 months.
- The oldest banded Bullock’s Oriole ever recaptured in the wild had lived 6 years and 1 month.