Icterus Spurius – Orchard Oriole

Icterus Spurius - Orchard Oriole found in the US

Orchard oriole, Icterus spurius is sometimes considered a distinct species. They belong to the Icteridae family. The Orchard Oriole is North America’s tiniest oriole. Adult males (after the second year) are distinguished by their black and chestnut plumage, whilst yearling males (hatch-year and second year) are yellow-greenish with a black bib.

Quick Overview: Icterus Spurius – Orchard Oriole
Body size: Around 6-7.75 in (15-20 cm) and a weight of 20 g (0.7 oz)
Main colors: Black, Chestnut, White, Brownish-white
Range: Eastern United States
Migratory Bird: Yes
Best time of the year to see in the U.S.: June, July, August, September
Conservation Status: Least Concern

Orchard Oriole Description

They are black on the scapulars and on the head, neck, and upper breast. Its rump, upper-tail coverts, and underparts are deep chestnut. It has black wings with chestnut epaulets and a white wing bar and tips. Black with brownish-white tips.

Icterus Spurius - Orchard Oriole found in the US
Icterus Spurius – Orchard Oriole. Source: Wikipedia


These birds have a length of 6-7.75 in (15-20 cm) and a weight of 20 g (0.7 oz). Their wings could range from 9.25-10.25 in (23-26 cm).


Aside from insects, orchard orioles eat tiny ripe fruits, nectar, and seeds during the mating season (late April to mid-July) (Thomas 1946, Dennis 1948, Bent 1965). During this season, according to Maryland stomach content data, their diet comprises of 91% insects and 9% plants.


Orchard orioles enjoy riparian zones, floodplains, and marshes near water sources (Jaramillo and Burke, 1999). They adapt well to local habitats. The summer nesting sites include mesquite brushlands, orchards, and phragmites wetlands in Louisiana (Scharf and Kren 1996). On migration, they frequent woodland borders with blooming trees and fruit.


Orchard orioles are a sociable species. They frequently nest in loose colonies, alerting each other of danger (Scharf and Kren 1996). They nest near other species (up to a meter apart from western kingbirds, Tyrannus verticalis), which may reduce nest parasitism by cowbirds (Molothrus ater) (Scharf and Kren 1996). During the winter, they may roost in huge groups (up to 100), alongside other orchard orioles, Baltimore orioles (Icterus galbula), and numerous finch species.

Icterus Spurius Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Icteridae
  • Genus: Icterus
  • Species: Icterus spurius

Best time of the year to see

The best time to see these birds in the United States is during the summer season (June – September).

Distribution of the Orchard Oriole in the USA

In Canada, the United States, and Mexico, orchard orioles breed. Their breeding range extends north to southeast Saskatchewan, through southwest Manitoba, southern Ontario, central New York, and extreme southern Maine, along the entire east coast of the United States through northern Florida, southwest through southern Texas, and into inland central Mexico to southern Guanajuato. Breeding ranges from western Montana, and Colorado to western Texas and northwestern Oklahoma.

The Orchard Oriole can be found in the following states in the United States – Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Icterus Spurius – Orchard Oriole

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