When it comes to setting up feeders for birds, most birders will go for the classic seed feeders as they are easier to maintain. But have you ever thought of attracting birds with a more diverse diet? Orioles are just the right pick for you. These perching songbirds not only bring color and variety to your yard but also entertain you with their whistling songs. But when can you expect to see them in your yard? Let’s find out whether or not orioles migrate.
Do orioles migrate? Yes, most Orioles do migrate. In fact, they live their entire life on the move, only stopping to mate and breed for a brief period of time. Orioles spend the winter in Central America and from there they travel north throughout the summer months. The five commonly found species of orioles in the United States all migrate to different places and at different times. However, some oriole species are non-migratory and remain in the same location all year round.
Stay with us till the end of this article to know all about the migration in orioles. We will talk about the five commonly found species in the United States, learn about their migration patterns, and tell you how you can help these beautiful songbirds with their migration.
5 Types of Orioles and their Migration Pattern
There are about 32 different species of orioles. However, most of them can rarely be seen in the United States. There are only five that are spotted in the United States. Check them out:
- Baltimore Orioles
- Orchard Orioles
- Hooded Orioles
- Scott’s Orioles
- Bullock’s Orioles
Baltimore Orioles (Icterus Galbula)
The Baltimore Orioles are small songbirds that are commonly seen in Eastern North America. These birds are sexually dimorphic, wherein adult males have a flame-orange and black body. On the other hand, the females are yellowish-orange at the breast, greyish at the head and back, with two white wing bars.
Baltimore Orioles spend their summers and winters in completely different ranges. Their migration season hits its peak between the months of mid-April and May. By the end of April, their mating season starts.
The males reach their destination 2-3 days prior to the females to claim their respective territories for the season. Towards the end of May, all the orioles have reached the Northern States and provinces. May also happens to be the month for their nest-building.
In June, most of the baby orioles hatch. Both the bird parents are busy incubating the eggs and taking care of their little ones. The father oriole fetches food for the babies and their mother, while the female stays with the fledglings.
As July comes, the baby orioles become independent. The parent birds start mottling their body and wing feathers. In fact, some birds start migrating by the beginning of the month.
The peak of Baltimore Oriole migration strikes in August and September. Some birds are still molting their feathers around this time.
In October, after the first half of the month, almost all the migration of Baltimore Orioles out of North America is concluded. The orioles have finished molting their body and wing feathers. By the end of the month, half of the birds have reached their tropical grounds.
By November, almost all the Baltimore Orioles have reached their tropical grounds. Ornithologists are yet to discover why some stragglers are left every year after November.
After December, no Baltimore Orioles can be spotted in Northern states and provinces.
Fun Fact: Baltimore orioles are often mistaken for Orchard Orioles since they share some of their territories and are also similar in coloration.
Orchard Orioles (Icterus Spurius)
The Orchard Orioles are the smallest oriole species. They are an exception to the signature flaming orange plume in orioles, with the males covered in rich chestnut brown feathers.
The females have a dull-green plumage with white wing bars. Their summers are spent in eastern North America and Southern Canada, whereas they’re spotted in Mexico, Colombia, and Venezuela during winters.
Did you know that Orchard Orioles are nocturnal birds, meaning that they migrate at night? Since they migrate at night, these birds use their days to forage for food and rest.
By Mid-March, all the Orchard Orioles have left their winter grounds for the mating season, which occurs from May to August. Most of them reach their breeding grounds by Mid-April. Upon reaching their destination, they start looking for potential mates by performing courtship rituals.
Throughout the months of May and June, Orchard Orioles mate with their partners, incubate their eggs and raise their fledglings. These birds often build their nests on the same trees as other similar birds like Baltimore orioles and Bullock’s orioles. They forage food together as a flock to feed their babies and the mother birds.
By Mid-June, most orioles have started molting their feathers while they groom and raise their young ones. Some birds even start their migration back to their winter grounds by July, while most of them are done molting their wings.
From August to October, they migrate back to their winter homes, and by the beginning of November, all the orioles are back into their winter grounds, where they will stay till March.
Hooded Orioles (Icterus Cucullatus)
Also called the Palm Leaf Oriole, Hooded Orioles are yet another species of oriole that migrate during winters. Their feathers vary from blazing orange to a pale yellow.
The females, on the other hand, are more of olive green with some yellow accentuation. The Hooded Orioles are native to North America, though they can be found as far south as Belize, Central America.
Fun Fact: Often, some Hooded orioles tend to over-winter, unlike the other oriole species. Thanks to the kind people who put out bird feeders for them, some of them often stay in one place all year long.
These birds set out for their summer migration a little early than most other birds. From February to March, most Hooded Orioles head for their summer homes in Southern Texas, Nevada, and the heart of California.
Orioles have their breeding season in the months of April and August. They attract a partner and build a nest during this time. They can have a clutch of about 4-7 eggs each year. They incubate the eggs for around 11-14 days.
From the incubation to the fledglings growing up, the father orioles bring food to the nest for the young ones and their mother. By the time the fledglings are big enough to fly, most of the orioles have already molted their body feathers.
By the end of August, the orioles start their journey back to their winter grounds, i.e., to Mexico and Southern California. The journey is roughly a month-long, meaning that they reach their destinations by the end of September.
From September to February, they enjoy the pleasantly warm weather of their winter homes.
Scott’s Orioles (Icterus Parisorum)
One of the first birds to start singing each morning before sunrise, the Scott’s Oriole was named by Darius N. Couch as a tribute to General Winfield Scott. Scott’s Orioles are medium-sized songbirds that are primarily found in the South-western United States and central Mexico.
The males of these species are black on the head, back, and breast, with yellow shoulders and white wing bars. On the other hand, the females are dull-greyish on the top and generally retain some black on the breast and throat.
The first of the migrating orioles reach their northern breeding grounds as early as March. However, those traveling from farther cities are often late, with the last ones arriving in June.
From about Mid-April to August, the orioles carry on with their mating and breeding. After the male attracts a female with their courtship rituals, the mating and egg-laying take place. The parent birds build their nests and incubate their eggs. When their young ones are learning to forage and survive on their own, the parent birds are already molting their feathers for the long way back to their summer homes.
It takes the orioles around three months (August to October) to reach their winter grounds, depending on the time it took them to reach their mating grounds.
By Mid-November, however, almost all the orioles have reached their non-breeding (winter) homes and enjoying the pleasant weather before migrating back to their breeding grounds again in February.
Bullock’s Orioles (Icterus Bullockii)
The Bullock’s Oriole is another small songbird with a strong physical resemblance to the Baltimore oriole. In fact, until recently, the Baltimore oriole and the Bullock’s Oriole were considered to be a single species called the Northern oriole.
This species is native to western North America but migrates to Mexico and northern Central America during the winters.
The migration pattern of Bullock’s oriole is roughly the same as the Baltimore Orioles, except for the fact that they migrate to and from different places.
By April, the birds start their migration through southern Arizona, California, and up the coast. Their breeding season begins at the end of April.
All the orioles have finished their migration up the coast by May and reached the interior mountains and plains, which are their breeding grounds. The nesting is at its peak by the end of May and early June.
The birds are busy incubating their eggs and taking care of their babies for a whole month. In the middle of June, the orioles start molting their feathers. Many birds will leave the drier parts of California and Washington by the end of July.
Bullock’s Oriole migration peaks in August and September, with almost 70% of orioles leaving for their winter homes. However, many birds choose to stay in the northern parts of their range, while some are still molting.
Except for the birds that are permanent residents of southern coastal California, all the orioles have arrived at their wintering grounds in Mexico by November. Still, some birds are molting.
By December, all the migrating birds have reached their winter abodes, while some have chosen to stay behind.
How can you help the Orioles?
As an enthusiastic birder, do you ever wonder if there’s a way you can help the orioles, either with migration or otherwise? Well, putting up bird feeders might be one way, but there are many other things that you can do for them. The following are some of our suggestions; check them out:
1. If you happen to have a pet cat at home, try to keep them indoors. Well-fed cats are often known to go after birds anyway, and the bell on cats is not always an effective warning for the birds. Moreover, keeping the cat indoors is beneficial for both the bird and the cat since indoor cats are known to live an average of about 4-7 times longer.
2. Try to avoid spraying insecticides and pesticides in your garden. Even if they do not affect the birds directly, the toxins can pollute the waterways and eradicate insects that the birds may rely on for food.
3. You can plant a variety of native grasses, flowers, plants, and bushes to attract native birds. The birds will bring their melodious tunes with them to your garden and also eradicate the insects and pests by eating them.
4. Birds, especially small songbirds, have difficulties building their nest due to their size. If you put a pile of sticks and twigs in your garden, it will make their work easier. If your garden has a suitable tree, the birds might even build their nest in your garden.
Frequently asked questions
Which feeders are the best to attract the orioles? Orioles love to feed on a variety of foods, including nectar, fruits, berries, and insects. That’s why you should select for them a feeder that has several compartments for different kinds of food. Also, go for a feeder with a wide perching platform for them to perch on.
How often should you clean your oriole feeder? Ideally, an oriole feeder should be cleaned once a week. However, during summers, you might need to clean it more often.
So, do orioles migrate? Yes, they do. Like most songbirds, orioles migrate during winters to warmer regions. All five migratory oriole species found in the United States have their own migrating schedule and pattern, and we’ve described each one of them elaborately above.
That brings an end to this article on Orioles migration. I hope you have enjoyed reading it and now know about the migrating behavior among different species of Orioles.
Thanks for reading this article. If you have any questions for me, feel free to drop us an email. I’ll respond as soon as possible.