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How to Identify Birds: The Northern Oriole

Northern orioles include two closely related species: Baltimore and Bullock's orioles. Use these guidelines to identify them.


  • Step 1: Observe the bird's size and appearance Consider the bird's appearance through binoculars and compare it with the pictures in your field guide. Male northern orioles are bright orange with black hoods, backs, and wings, and females are dull yellow-brown.
  • TIP: The male Bullock's oriole has a black crown and orange cheeks, while the male Baltimore oriole has a completely black head. The females of both species tend to be indistinguishable.
  • Step 2: Observe the bird's habitat Consider the bird's habitat. Northern oriole's traditionally make their homes at the edges of woodlands and in open woods, and are often seen foraging in trees and bushes in urban parks and suburban landscapes.
  • TIP: The Baltimore oriole is found in the Eastern and Midwestern U.S., and the Bullock's oriole in the far west.
  • Step 3: Observe the bird's behavior Consider the bird's behavior. Northern oriole nests are typically found in free-standing trees, at the boundaries of woodlands, or in city parks.
  • FACT: Bullock's and Baltimore orioles have hybridized on the Great Plains, where the two species overlap.

You Will Need

  • Binoculars
  • A field guide

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