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What is a Golden Oriole?

By Anna B. Smith
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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The golden oriole is a bird indigenous to England and Asia. Known for its bright yellow feathers and high, melodic, flute like whistle, it spends summer months, typically May through August, in Europe and western Asia. The bird usually winters the remaining months in tropical climates. The flight pattern of the golden oriole is direct, with gradual undulations of movement, much like the flight pattern of a thrush.

The golden oriole prefers to breed in large poplar groves and among other deciduous trees close to water. They feed primarily on insects and fruit. The birds spend the majority of their time in the upper tree canopies.

The male of the species may be recognized by its bright yellow plumage and striking black wings. Some types of oriole have white as well, streaked through their feathers and along their breasts. Female orioles are generally a dull green in color. The golden oriole specifically has streaks of gold in both its wing and tail feathers, unlike other versions of the species.

This type of bird is generally very shy. This can aid them in their natural ability to avoid observation. Their small size and camouflage-like coloring usually make them difficult to see in the dappled light of the tree canopies in which they live.

These birds make their nests in tree tops. They create a hanging-basket type of home, using twigs, branches, and other tree matter. The golden oriole generally lays three eggs, and leaves the female to protect the eggs and nest. Eggs are typically white with black speckles. Baby and juvenile orioles do not have the bright coloring of their parents, and are typically a mottled brown and white color. Both the female and male of the species work together to feed the baby orioles and protect the nest.

The African golden oriole is also a member of the oriole family, indigenous to the southern Saharan regions of Africa. It appears similar in color to the European and Asian versions, with the males colored bright yellow with black wings, and the females a dark green. African orioles contain slightly less black along their wings than the European varieties, with this color limited only to the flight portions of the wing. The African birds live in thick bush and other wooded areas.

The bird is named for the sound that it makes when it sings. Their call sounds like ooohr – iii – ole. This onomatopoetic name was given to them by Albertus Magnus in 1250.

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Discussion Comments
By golf07 — On Dec 22, 2011

I have never seen a golden oriole, but really look forward to feeding the orioles every spring. Even though the golden oriole is not native to the United States, there are several varieties of orioles that visit the country.

I can attest to the fact that they like to nest high up in the trees. They also like to use horse hair to build their nests with.

We live in the country and have horses. We also have a trampoline that sits next to several tall trees. Every year, the orioles build a nest made with horse hair, way at the top of these trees.

Many times they will try to eat from my hummingbird feeders. When I see this, I set out oranges cut in half for them to eat on. They love this, and it gives me a chance to see them close up.

Even when I don't see them, I can always identify their clear, distinct song.

By julies — On Dec 22, 2011

One summer I spent about three weeks in England, and was able to spot a golden oriole on more than one occasion.

I am an avid bird watcher, so I didn't even need to get out my bird guide to identify this bird. It looks very similar to the Baltimore orioles I have come to my feeders in the spring.

The coloring was a little different, but their size was similar and their song was also quite familiar.

I was quite excited when I was able to spot this bird more than once, because I know they can be hard to see sometimes.

There were several other birds I was watching for and never saw, but I was thankful I got to hear and see this bird in its natural habitat.

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