Birds of Wisconsin, Nature From Home

The Orange Brilliance of the Baltimore Oriole

The flash of orange & black of the Baltimore Oriole is unmistakable. Arriving to Wisconsin in early May, these relatives of the blackbird family are here to breed, but subsequently grace our orange feeders and the tip-tops of the tree canopy with their melodic, whistled song.

Baltimore Orioles are neotropical migrant songbirds who spend their winters mainly in Central America and the northernmost area of South America. They migrate hundreds of miles in the months of April and May. During the summer months, they raise their new families all over the eastern United States and into parts of Canada. While some Baltimore Orioles may continue further north, Milwaukee is one of the destinations they will remain in to stake a territory.

Identifying a Baltimore Oriole

Orioles are in the blackbird family, which includes Common Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds. They are a medium-sized songbird, around the same size a Northern Cardinal. The famously flame orange of their body is brilliant and complements perfectly a bold, blue summer sky. Mature males have a deep black head, and black wings with white wing bars. Females, as well as immature males, are generally more subdued in color, but with the same field marks.

Their bills are large, but pointed. During migration and while overwintering, orioles are known to eat fruit and nectar. While they are breeding, they will continue to eat fruit and nectar, but also add insects into their regular diet. They have a beautiful, loud song, that radiates from the top of the canopy. It’s a song that many look forward to hearing each May.

Nest Weavers

A female Baltimore Oriole and the very beginning stages of a hanging nest.


Birds are intelligent creatures. American Crows can use tools; Killdeer pretend to be injured to protect their nests. And Baltimore Orioles are weavers! Baltimore Orioles actually weave their hanging nests out of fiber, string, and any other materials they are able to utilize. The female oriole is usually solely responsible for nest creation. She will gather materials from nearby and weave them into a hanging structure, usually in the highest part of a tree, adding support, and a downy liner as she goes. It is mesmerizing to observe!

Attracting Baltimore Orioles to Your Yard

Orioles are a crowd favorite and they love oranges! The best and easiest way to attract Baltimore Orioles to your yard is by putting up an orange feeder. I recommend any of the Oriole feeders from Kettle Moraine Woodworking. Most are made of recycled material, and it’s a local business! In my own yard, I have the Recycled Fruit Stick design, where all you have to do is cut an orange in half, and stick the halves on the feeder. As I’m writing this, there are currently FIVE Baltimore Orioles vying for a spot on my oranges. Even in a small yard in the city, Baltimore Orioles somehow find it each spring!

Baltimore Orioles are beautiful, bold, colorful birds. Their arrival each May is a highlight of my spring, and I hope they will bring as much joy to your yard as they bring to mine.