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Identifying Orchard Oriole

Orchard Oriole, one-year-old male. April in Galveston County, Texas. Photo by Brian E. Small
Orchard Oriole, one-year-old male. April in Galveston County, Texas. Photo by Brian E. Small

The English word oriole is derived from the Latin aurum, or gold. It’s a popular name, applied to more than 30 species in the blackbird family (Icteridae) and to about 25 species in the unrelated oriole family of the Old World (Oriolidae). Most orioles, in both families, do wear shades of golden yellow or orange. An exception is the Orchard Oriole of eastern and central North America. Females and young are dull greenish yellow, and adult males are rich, deep chestnut and black.

Orchard Oriole is the smallest of the New World orioles, averaging only about seven inches long. Once, while leading a field trip, I found a dead female on the ground. I asked members of the group to name the species. No one guessed it was an oriole. Most thought it was a warbler, reflecting just how small the bird is.

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Kenn Kaufman

Kenn Kaufman

Kenn Kaufman is an expert birder and naturalist, a talented artist and photographer, a world traveler, and the author of many books about birds and other wildlife. His column “ID Tips” appears in every issue of BirdWatching. Kenn is also a field editor for Audubon Magazine and a contributor to Birds and Blooms. His work first appeared in Birder’s World (now BirdWatching) in April 1988. Visit his website, Kaufman Field Guides.

Kenn Kaufman on social media

Brian E. Small

Brian E. Small

Brian Small is a Los Angeles-based bird and nature photographer whose photos appear in the “ID Tips” column in every issue of BirdWatching. His work has been published in Time, The New York Times, Audubon, Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife, Wildlife Conservation, and many other publications. His photos also illustrate many field guides, including Kenn Kaufman’s Birds of North America, a series of state bird identification guides published with the American Birding Association, and his own Eastern and Western photographic field guides to the birds of North America published in 2009 with author Paul Sterry and Princeton University Press.

Brian E. Small on social media