What types of orioles can you find in California?
Few birds get me as excited as seeing Baltimore Orioles in my backyard each spring, either sipping grape jelly or feeding on orange halves. It’s no wonder these beautiful blackbirds (Yes, all orioles are part of the Icteridae family and considered blackbirds 🙂 ) draw so much attention and are a favorite amongst many people, both birders and non-birders alike.
Below are the 3 types of orioles that live in California!
Make sure to pay attention to the range maps below to see which orioles live near you! For each species, I have included a few photographs, along with their most common sounds, to help you identify any birds you are lucky enough to observe.
- *RELATED: Watch the LIVE bird feeder and animal cameras in MY backyard* (You may get lucky and see an oriole eating jelly on my cams RIGHT NOW!)
#1. Bullock’s Oriole
Bullock’s Orioles are common in California. Look for them in open woodlands or parks, where there are large trees spaced out a bit.
Males are bright orange and easily identified by a black line that runs across their eyes and a black throat. Females look different and have a yellowish head, chest, and tail with a grayish body.
A unique skill that Bullock’s Orioles display is their ability to hang upside down for extended periods of time. They do this behavior while searching for insects or building their exquisite woven nests.
Bullock’s Oriole Range Map
To attract Bullock’s Orioles in California, try using one of these strategies below:
- Ripe fruit, such as bananas, cherries, grapes, or various berries. Orioles are attracted to the color orange, so putting out orange slices works best in my backyard.
- Grape jelly, placed in a cup, is a treat that orioles find hard to resist. You may also see catbirds and woodpeckers sampling the jelly.
- Similar to hummingbirds, Bullock’s Orioles love drinking nectar from flowers. You can take advantage of this fact by setting out oriole-friendly nectar feeders at your bird feeding station.
- You may also see them eating suet and sunflower seeds.
Press PLAY above to hear a Bullock’s Oriole singing!
There is a lot of individual variation with the songs of Bullock’s Orioles. But in general, listen for clear, flutelike whistles that are around 3 seconds long, and often interspersed with rattles.
Scientific Name: Icterus bullockii
#2. Hooded Oriole
Males range from flame orange to bright yellow, depending on where they live, so you can’t rely on color alone to identify these orioles. Females are more consistent and usually appear olive-yellow with a grayish back. Look for a slightly curved bill on both sexes.
These birds are sometimes called “palm-leaf orioles,” because of their fondness for hanging their nests on the underside of palm fronds. In fact, Hooded Orioles are slowly expanding their range northward as people keep planting ornamental palms to landscape their homes and neighborhoods.
Hooded Oriole Range Map
Most Hooded Orioles migrate south to Mexico for winter. But some individuals choose to stay in California all year. These birds spend the cold months hanging out at bird feeders, eating oranges and jelly, and drinking sugar water. Not a bad life if you ask me! 🙂
These orioles can be hard to see due to their inconspicuous nature. But you should have no problem hearing them if they are around, as both sexes sing! Listen for a series of chatters, warbles, and whistles that lasts between 1 to 4 seconds. Sounds range quite a bit among individual birds, and it doesn’t have the sweet song characteristic of other oriole species.
Scientific Name: Icterus cucullatus
#3. Scott’s Oriole
You can find these beautiful orioles in arid areas of southern California. Look for them from the mountains to foothills and all the way down to the desert. These birds forage and nest in palms, junipers, pinyon pines, and especially yuccas, where nectar, insects, and nesting material is gathered.
Scott’s Oriole Range Map
Interestingly, Scott’s Orioles are one of the few birds that will eat a Monarch Butterfly. Most species avoid eating these butterflies because they taste bad, which is a result of the milkweed plants they consume. These birds accomplish this feat by only eating the abdomens of the less potent ones.
Scott’s Orioles are easy to find because of their bright yellow plumage.
But it’s possible you will hear these birds first since males start singing before the sun even comes up, and then keep singing periodically through the rest of the day. Females tend only to sing while at the nest, in response to their mate.
Press PLAY above to hear a Scott’s Oriole singing!
Listen for a series of clear, low whistles that varies among individuals.
Scientific Name: Icterus parisorum
Do you need help attracting orioles?
Try reading this article that I wrote. It should help!
Which of these orioles have you seen before in California?
Leave a comment below!
To learn more about birds that live near you, check out these other guides!
*The range maps you will see above were generously shared with permission from The Birds of The World, published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I use their site OFTEN to learn new information about birds!*