This western oriole was once considered the same bird as the Baltimore oriole, but today the Bullock’s oriole is recognized as its own distinct species. The two types of orioles will hybridize where their nesting ranges overlap, however, which can cause identification difficulties for birders.
Bullock’s Oriole, Northern Oriole
- Bill: Straight, pointed, lower mandible paler
- Size: 8 inches long with 12-inch wingspan, long tail
- Colors: Black, orange, white, gray, olive brown, yellow
- Markings: Dimorphic species. Males have a black cap, nape, chin and thin eye line that contrast with a bright orange face, chest, rump and underparts. The wings are black with a large white patch and prominent white edging. Black tail has orange outer feathers. Females have an olive brown back, head and tail. Wings are also olive brown and have two medium white bars. The face, throat and breast are yellow, and a faint gray eye line can be seen. The abdomen and flanks are gray or white and may show a yellow or olive wash. For both genders, feet and legs are dark.
Nectar, fruit, insects, berries (See Feeding Orioles for more information.)
Habitat and Migration:
Bullock’s orioles are the most common western oriole and their summer range extends throughout the western half of the United States through central Mexico. They prefer open forests, orchard and riparian habitats but can also be found along the forested edges of clearings and in city parks.
During the winter, these birds migrate to southern Mexico and Central America.
The Bullock’s oriole’s call is a nasal, raspy song interspersed with whistling notes. Both genders sing, though the female’s song is generally harsher. A rattling chatter call is also used by both genders.
Bullock’s orioles are solitary birds or can be found in pairs early in the year. After the nesting season, small family flocks form as young birds mature. These are noisy, conspicuous birds when they are foraging among the leaves, and they will chase perceived intruders out of their territory.
These are monogamous birds. The female parent will incubate a single annual brood of 4-6 eggs for a total of 12-14 days, and after hatching both parents feed the altricial young for an additional 12-14 days. Fledglings will stay near their parents until migration, and the following year they will establish their own territories.
Attracting Bullock’s Orioles:
Bullock’s orioles will readily visit feeders offering suet, oranges, grape jelly or nectar. Specialized oriole feeders are recommended to entice these birds, and planting fruit-bearing bushes can also attract orioles. Planting cottonwood and willow trees will also catch the attention of Bullock’s orioles. (See How to Attract Orioles for more information.)
- Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula)
- Hooded Oriole (Icterus cucullatus)
- Altamira Oriole (Icterus gularis)
Photo – Bullock’s Oriole – Male © Teddy Llovet
Photo – Bullock’s Oriole – Female © Clinton & Charles Robertson