12 Birds That Look Like Orioles

Birds That Look Like Orioles

Have you ever seen an oriole and thought it was a different bird? You’re not the only one! There are some birds out there that look so similar to Orioles that they can easily be mistaken for them. All of these birds share the same black and orange coloring, so it can be easy to get them confused.

In this blog post, we will take a closer look at 12 such birds and see how they differ from one another. We will also discuss where to find these birds in the wild.

Let’s get started!


Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee - eBird

Scientific name: Pipilo maculatus
Lifespan: around 11 years
Height: 17-21 centimeters (6.7-8.3 inches)
Weight: 33-49 grams
Wingspan: 28 centimeters (11 inches)

Formerly called the Oregon Towhee, Spotted Towhees are a member of the New World Sparrow family that inhabit the bushy fields and dry upland forests of North America.

These large passerines are popular for their fan-shaped tails. Both sexes of the adults possess a dark head and upper body coupled with white underparts and rufous sides. The only difference is that while the upper body of males is black, in their female counterparts, it is brown.

Their resemblance to Orioles:

Spotted Towhees closely resemble Orchard Orioles. Both birds have a black-colored head, face, throat, and tail, touches of white on their black wings, and grey, conical bills with a pointed edge.

Here are some physical traits that set the two apart:

  • Spotted Towhees are slightly larger in size than Orchard Orioles.
  • They possess red eyes, unlike the black eyes of the latter.
  • The underbody of Orchard Orioles is rufous in color. On the other hand, Spotted Towhees have a bold white patch running from the middle of their chest all the way to their rump, with rufous sides.


Evening Grosbeak

Evening Grosbeak - eBird

Scientific name: Hesperiphona vespertina
Lifespan: around 15 years
Height: 16 centimeters to 22 (6.3-8.7 inches)
Weight: 58.7 grams
Wingspan: 30-36 centimeters (12-14 inches)

Belonging to the subfamily of Cardueline Finches, the Evening Grosbeaks are a vulnerable Finch species found in the coniferous and mixed forests of North America.

Closely resembling the Hawfinches in appearance, Evening Grosbeaks are stocky birds with large bills and short tails. Both sexes of these birds possess a dark head and upper body with yellow underparts. However, the upper parts of the females are more olive-brown, with their underbody a duller shade of yellow.

Their resemblance to Orioles:

The dark head, black eyes, wings, and tail of Evening Grosbeaks are quite similar to that of the Baltimore Orioles.

Here are the differences between their appearance:

  • Although both birds possess conical bills, the bills of Evening Grosbeaks are heavier, shorter, and pale ivory in color, unlike Baltimore Orioles’ grey bills.
  • Their heads are a paler shade of black than the Baltimore Orioles. They also have yellow eyebrow patches, which the latter lack.
  • On their wings, you’ll spot a large white patch, unlike several tiny white patches scattered around the wings of Baltimore Orioles.


American Robin

American Robin - eBird

Scientific name: Turdus migratorius
Lifespan: around 2 years
Height: 23-28 centimeters (9.1-11 inches)
Weight: 72-94 grams in males; 59-91 grams in females
Wingspan: 31-41 centimeters (12-16 inches)

Belonging to the True Thrush genus of the Thrush family, American Robins are large songbirds that have been named after European Robins due to their orangish chest. However, there are no other similarities between the two.

American Robins have a wide distribution throughout North America and travel South to Mexico and Canada during winters. Both sexes of these birds have similar plumage colorations; only the females weigh less and have a duller plumage.

Their resemblance to Orioles:

American Robins have a black head and upper body with rufous underparts just like the Orchard Orioles. The eyes and tails of both birds are black as well.

Here are a few physical features that you could use to set the two apart:

  • American Robins are both heavier and larger than Orchard Orioles, with a much longer wingspan.
  • They have white eye rings and several white lines running between their chin and throat, both of which are absent in Orchard Orioles.
  • The bills of American Robins are longer and orange in color, unlike the smaller, grey bills of the Orchard Orioles.
  • While the wings of American Robins are completely black, Orchard Orioles have touches of white on them.


Varied Thrush

Varied Thrush - eBird

Scientific name: Ixoreus naevius
Lifespan: around 4.4 years
Height: 20 centimeters to 26 centimeters (7.9-10.2 inches)
Weight: 65-100 grams
Wingspan: 34 centimeters to 42 centimeters (13-17 inches)

Varied Thrushes are a large, migratory thrush species found in North America. While they’re often compared to American Robins in size, the former is more heavily built.

The adult Varied Thrushes are sexually dimorphic. While the males possess a dark head and upper body with rufous underparts, their female counterparts are mostly greyish brown in color. They also lack the well-defined streaks found all over the backs of the males.

Their resemblance to Orioles:

While both Varied Thrushes and Orchard Orioles possess black upper body and rufous underbody, that’s where all their similarities end.

Here are some differences between the appearance of these birds:

  • Varied Thrushes have a rufous throat patch and two eyebrow patches, unlike the head and throat of Orchard Orioles, which are entirely black.
  • While there’s little difference in the size of Varied Thrushes and Orchard Orioles, the former is significantly heavier than the latter.
  • The legs of Varied Thrushes are bone-colored, while Orchard Orioles have black legs.
  • Their bills are thinner than that of the Orchard Orioles.
  • The underbody of Varied Thrushes is a lighter shade of rufous than Orchard Orioles.


Eastern Towhee

Eastern Towhee - eBird

Scientific name: Pipilo erythrophthalmus
Lifespan: around 12 years
Height: 17-23 centimeters (6.8-9.1 inches)
Weight: 40 grams
Wingspan: 20-30 centimeters (7.9-11.8 inches)

Found in bushy vegetation of eastern North America, the Eastern Towhees are large songbirds that belong to the New World Sparrow family.

Both sexes of these birds possess white underbody, rufous sides, and a long, dark tail. Only the black head and upper body of the males are replaced with brown in their female counterparts.

Their resemblance to Orioles:

Much like the Spotted Towhees, Eastern Towhees also share their plumage coloration with Orchard Orioles.

Here’s how you can tell the two birds apart:

  • Eastern Towhees have a stockier body than Orchard Orioles.
  • Their bills are also slightly shorter, stockier, and darker than that of the latter.
  • Eastern Towhees have a bold white patch on their chest, while the chest of Orchard Orioles is completely rufous in color.
  • The legs and feet of Eastern Towhees are pale red, while that of the latter are black.
  • Eastern Towhees have red or yellow (in some rare cases) eyes, while Orchard Orioles have black eyes.


American Redstart

American Redstart - eBird

Scientific name: Setophaga ruticilla
Lifespan: around 5-10 years
Height: 11-14 centimeters (4.3 to 5.5 inches)
Weight: 6.9-8.6 grams
Wingspan: 6-23 centimeters (6.3-9.1 inches)

American Redstarts are a tiny warbler species that breed in North America and migrate south to Central America during the winter months.

These birds are sexually dimorphic. The males have a jet-black head and throat with yellow chest patches and white underparts.

On the other hand, the females have pale brown-colored heads with white underparts. Although they do possess yellow chest patches as well, theirs are much paler in comparison to their male counterparts.

Their resemblance to Orioles:

The black eyes, head, throat, and upper parts of American Redstarts resemble that of Scott’s Orioles.

Now, let’s discuss the differences between their appearances:

  • American Redstarts are much smaller than Scott’s Orioles and weigh much lighter.
  • The bills of American Redstarts are shorter and thinner than the long, conical bills of the latter.
  • While the underbody of Scott’s Orioles is completely yellow, American Redstarts possess a white underbody with a bold patch of orangish-yellow below their throat.


Western Tanager

Western Tanager - eBird

Scientific name: Piranga ludoviciana
Lifespan: around 7-9 years
Height: 16-19 centimeters (6.3-7.5 inches)
Weight: 24 g to 36 g
Wingspan: 29 centimeters (11.5 inches)

While Western Tanagers were once members of the Tanager family (as you can gather by their name), they have now been included in the Cardinal family instead.

These songbirds display significant sexual dimorphism, with males possessing a yellow face and underbody with black wings and back. On the other hand, their female counterparts have an overall dull brown body with an olive back. Females also lack the vibrant vermillion touch that covers the males’ faces.

Their resemblance to Orioles:

The only two similarities between Western Tanagers and Yellow Orioles are their yellow plumage and black eyes.

Following are the differences in their physical features:

  • The face of Western Tanagers is covered in a vermillion stain, while Yellow Orioles have the same yellow coloration on their face as the rest of their body.
  • Yellow Orioles have black bands across their eyes and a long, black throat patch, both of which are absent in Western Tanagers.
  • The bills of Yellow Orioles are darker, longer, and sharper than that of the latter.



Brambling - eBird

Scientific name: Fringilla ontifringilla
Lifespan: around 8 years
Height: 16 centimeters (6.3 inches)
Weight: 23-29 grams
Wingspan: 250-26 centimeters (9.9-10.1 inches)

Also referred to as the Mountain Finch, Bramblings are members of the Old World Finch family with a widespread global population. These migratory birds appear a lot like the Chaffings, with their dark head and upper body coupled with Orangish underparts.

While both sexes of these birds appear somewhat similar, the plumage of the females is less distinctly marked than that of their male counterparts. The juveniles take after their mothers.

Their resemblance to Orioles:

The black eyes and dark head of Bramblings lend them the same hooded appearance as Baltimore Orioles.

Here’s how you can differentiate between these birds:

  • Bramblings have bone-colored conical bills that are shorter than the grey, pointed bills of Baltimore Orioles.
  • While the underbody of Baltimore Orioles is covered in a rich shade of yellow, Bramblings’ underbody is mostly white with a faded yellow breast patch.
  • Bramblings have light red legs, unlike the grey legs of Baltimore Orioles.
  • Bramblings’ tail lacks touches of yellow that you can spot in Baltimore Orioles.


Black-headed Grosbeak

Black-headed Grosbeak Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of  Ornithology

Scientific name: Pheucticus melanocephalus
Lifespan: around 10-11 years
Height: 19 centimeters (7.5 inches)
Weight: around 47 grams
Wingspan: 32 centimeters (12.6)

Belonging to the family of the Northern Cardinals, Black-headed Grosbeaks are migratory birds found in North America.

As their name indicates, the males have a shiny black face, wings, and tail, with an orangish-rufous underbody. Due to sexual dimorphism, their female counterparts are brown-headed and have sparrow-like streaks throughout their back.

Their resemblance to Orioles:

While both Black-headed Grosbeaks and Orchard Orioles share black eyes, face, wings, and rufous underparts, that’s where their similarities end.

Following are the differences between the appearance of these birds:

  • The black patch of Black-headed Grosbeaks’ face ends with their face, unlike that of Orchard Orioles, where it spreads to the back of their neck, all the way to their wings.
  • Black-headed Grosbeaks have a bold yellow patch on their rump, which is absent in the Orchard Orioles.
  • The bills of Black-headed Grosbeaks are thicker and shorter than that of the latter.


Flame-colored Tanager

Flame-colored Tanager - eBird

Scientific name: Piranga bidentata
Lifespan: around 2-3 years
Height: 18-19 centimeters (7.1-7.5 inches)
Weight: 33.3-39.4 grams
Wingspan: 30 centimeters (12 inches)

Previously referred to as Stripe-backed Tanager, Flame-colored Tanagers are songbirds of the tanager family that dwell in the montane forests of North and Central America.

The species have been named after the bright, flame-like plumage of the males, which is absent in their female counterparts. Being highly sexually dimorphic, the female Flame-colored Tanagers have olive upper parts and pale-yellow under parts.

Their resemblance to Orioles:

The flame-colored plumage of Flame-colored Tanagers closely resembles that of Orange Orioles. Both birds also possess black eyes and wings, and their bills and legs are both grey.

Here’s how you can differentiate between these birds:

  • Flame-colored Tanagers have a redder plumage than Orange Orioles.
  • Their bills are shorter and less pointy-edged than the latter.
  • Their face is completely orange and lacks the black patch around the eyes and throat that Orange Orioles possess.


American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch - eBird

Scientific name: Spinus tristis
Lifespan: around 6-11 years
Height: 11-14 centimeters (4.3-5.5 inches)
Weight: 11-20 grams
Wingspan: 19-22 centimeters (7.5-8.7 inches)

Popular for their melodious songs, the American Goldfinches are a cardueline finch species found in North America. These Finches have four subspecies and display significant sexual dimorphism.

The female American Goldfinches don’t share the brilliant yellow plumage of their male counterparts and have a faded brown upper body with pale-yellow underparts. These birds also happen to be the only bird in the cardueline finch subfamily to undergo molt twice annually.

Their resemblance to Orioles:

The bright yellow plumage of American Goldfinches can easily be confused with that of Yellow Orioles.

Take a look at these differences to tell them apart:

  • American Goldfinches are both smaller and lighter than Yellow Orioles.
  • American Goldfinches have a black forehead patch, while Yellow Orioles have a black chin patch.
  • Their bills are pale pinkish in color, unlike the dark grey bills of the latter.


Magnolia Warbler

Magnolia Warbler - eBird

Scientific name: Setophaga magnolia
Lifespan: around 5-7 years
Height: 11-13 centimeters (4.3-5.1 inches)
Weight: 6.6-12.6 grams
Wingspan: 16-20 centimeters (6.3-7.9 inches)

Belonging to the family of the wood-warblers, Magnolia Warblers are tiny songbirds that breed in the northern regions of the US and travel east during winters.

While both sexes of these warblers share a similar grey, black, and white upper body with yellow underparts, the coloration in the females is comparatively duller. The juvenile Magnolia Warblers take after their mothers in appearance.

Their resemblance to Orioles:

The only similarities between Magnolia Warblers and Yellow Orioles are of their black eyes and yellow underparts.

The differences between these birds are listed below:

  • The head, upperparts, wings, and tails of Magnolia Warblers are grey with touches of white and black, unlike the yellow upper body, black wings, and tail of Yellow Orioles.
  • Both their bills and legs are thinner than the latter.
  • Magnolia Warblers have white eyebrow patches, which are absent in Yellow Orioles.
  • They have several black lines running around their chest, while the latter only possess a black chest patch extended from their bills.


Wrapping it up

It’s time to wrap our article up with one last revision of everything new we’ve learned today.

We began by talking about orioles and their distinctive characteristics, moving on to list the birds that appear similar to them. While some species of Grosbeaks, Tanagers, Warblers, and Towhees are often confused with Orioles, other birds like American Robins and Bramblings are on our list as well.

We’ve talked about the physical description of these birds briefly and explored the similarities and differences between them and the orioles to help you avoid any potential confusion in the future.

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