7 Types Of ORIOLES In Texas (ID Guide With Photos)
Did you recently come across an oriole bird in Texas, and want to know what species it was?
Identifying orioles in the Lone Star State is not as easy as it might seem, since there are many oriole species in Texas.
To help you identify the bird you saw, we’ll cover the most common orioles of Texas in this article.
What are the types of orioles in Texas?
The 7 types of orioles found in Texas are:
- Baltimore Oriole
- Bullock’s Oriole
- Orchard Oriole
- Hooded Oriole
- Scott’s Oriole
- Altamira Oriole
- Audubon’s Oriole
While several of these orioles are year-round residents in Texas, most of them are summer visitors, and one is only seen during migration (more on that below).
Now let’s dive into the details, and take a closer look at each of these birds:
Scientific name: Icterus galbula
The Baltimore Oriole is a wonderful singer that is more frequently heard than seen.
While this oriole is a breeding bird in a small area of the Texas Panhandle, it is more commonly seen throughout the eastern half of the state during fall migration, and less often in spring.
Adult males have a conspicuous combination of flaming orange and black with white wing bars.
Females and immatures are much more drab, and have a brownish yellow coloration. Females also lack the black coloration.
Baltimore Orioles are readily attracted to feeders that contain orange halves, grape jelly, or nectar.
And similar to Orchard Orioles, parents bring their recently fledged young to a nearby feeder.
It favors open spaces such as yards, parks, and woods, and frequently comes back to the same location year after year.
Keep an eye out for Baltimore Orioles in deciduous forests, but not in dense woods. You may encounter them in places like open forests, forest margins, orchards and even backyards.
Due to the fact that they forage high in trees in search of insects, fruit, and flowers, these orioles are more often heard than seen.
Related: The black birds of Texas
Scientific name: Icterus bullockii
Bullock’s Oriole is a species of western North America that breeds in the western half of Texas.
Just like most oriole species in the Lone Star State, it is a migrant, and spends the winter in Central America.
Adult males are flaming orange coupled with a jet black back and a black neck. They also have a large white patch on the wing, and an orange face with a black throat.
Juveniles and females are more grayish-yellow with orange on their face and chest.
Bullock’s Orioles prefer open woodland habitats with cottonwood trees, where they forage for food on the upper branches of trees and shrubs, searching for fruits and insects.
They build remarkable hanging nests by weaving together dried grass and twigs. They are also able to hang upside down for extended periods while they build their nests and forage in trees.
You can most often encounter Bullock’s Orioles in Texas in areas with woodlands close to rivers and streams, as well as in parks and orchards.
Scientific name: Icterus spurius
This oriole got its name from its preference for orchards and open woods, though in Texas it has a marked preference for mesquite.
It is a summer resident throughout Texas, but is most commonly found in south Texas brush country.
Unlike the females (which have mostly dull yellow plumage with black wing tips), males are a dark orange color with a black head, as well as a black throat, upper back, wings, and tail.
Young males resemble females in color, and gradually become more and more black over their first two years.
Early in the summer, these orioles feed on insects, but later switch to eating wild fruit as they become mature.
After their young have fledged, parent Orioles will bring them to feeding stations (especially if you have a nectar feeder.
Some people mistakenly believe that these orioles have departed since they do not see them at their feeders during the peak of the summer.
However, these orioles are still present nearby, but are simply focused on catching insects to bring back to their nestlings.
The Orchard Oriole is one of the birds that gets here very late in the spring and is one of the ones that leaves quite early in the fall.
Scientific name: Icterus cucullatus
While the Hooded Oriole is most commonly found in California and other parts of the southwestern United States, it also breeds in the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas.
In their original habitat they prefer desert woodland with sycamores or cottonwood trees, but in recent years they have adapted more and more to urban habitats, where they often nest in palm trees.
The Hooded Oriole is a medium-sized bird that is highly conspicuous due to its flaming yellow belly and neck. In addition to these bright parts, its throat, back, tail, and wings are jet black.
In spite of their bright colors, these orioles can be hard to spot, as they like to remain hidden in the dense foliage of the trees they forage in.
They build a woven nest that is attached to the underside of a tree branch. This design helps to protect the nestlings from larger predators (though not from snakes).
The range of the Hooded Oriole in the Southwest has expanded as a result of both an increase in the number of palm trees and an increase in the availability of nectar bird feeders.
Hooded Orioles also feed on nectar directly from flowers, and are considered “nectar robbers,” as they pierce the base of a flower to drink its nectar, and do so without assisting it with pollination.
One of the favorite foods of this bird is nectar, and as a result, they are on occasion observed at bird feeders in Texas that offer nectar or grape jelly.
They also visit fruit feeders that offer orange slices. But if you try this out, make sure to remove old orange slices, as they quickly become moldy and toxic to birds.
They are migratory orioles that can be seen in the state from March to September.
However, due to the availability of feeders, some Hooded Orioles can be observed wintering in southern Texas, even though they would normally spend the winter in Mexico.
Scientific name: Icterus parisorum
Scott’s Oriole is commonly found in the Southwestern part of the United States, and is a common breeding bird in central and west Texas.
It is a medium-sized oriole that is highly conspicuous due to its flaming yellow underside.
However, only the lower part of this bird is yellow in color. Its head, back, breast, tail, and wing are a stunning jet black color.
A type of icterid, it is most famously known as the desert or mountain oriole, as it prefers to live in high desert regions or along mountain slopes in Mexico and Central America, as well as the southern United States.
This bird frequents both dense oak forests, as well as more open landscapes with scattered trees and yucca plants.
The favorite food of this oriole is yucca nectar. As a result of this, they are on occasion observed at bird feeders offering nectar (or sugar water) in southeastern Texas and along the Gulf Coast.
Interestingly, the Scott’s Oriole is one of the few bird species that can eat monarch butterflies, and feeds on monarchs in its winter range in southern Mexico.
Monarch butterflies use toxins from milkweed plants to defend themselves against being eaten by birds, but Scott’s Orioles are able to overcome this defense.
Scientific name: Icterus gularis
The Altamira Oriole is one of the most brightly colored orioles, which gives it a distinctive tropical appearance.
While its main range is in Mexico and Central America, it also breeds in the lower parts of Texas’s Rio Grande Valley.
Males and females look alike, and have a flaming orange-yellow head and underside. The bright orange body color contrasts with their jet black wings and back.
These birds are year-round residents, and sometimes visit bird feeders that offer nectar or orange slices.
Scientific name: Icterus graduacauda
Audubon Orioles have a similar range to Altamira Orioles in South Texas, where they can be found in bushland close to the Rio Grande river.
Adult males and females look similar, and have a beautiful yellow body color, paired with an entirely black head, black wings, and a black tail.
This yellow Texas bird is shy, and can be hard to observe, although it does sometimes visit feeding stations.
The best way to identify this oriole is by the melodious whistling song of the male. The same principle applies to most oriole species, since they like to remain hidden in dense foliage.
And there we have the orioles found in the state of Texas.
New World orioles belong to the genus Icterus, and few people know that they are actually more closely related to New World blackbirds than to Old World orioles (even though they look more similar to the latter).
While most species of orioles have a tropical or subtropical range, North America also has 8 species of breeding orioles, with the largest number of species found in Texas.
Interestingly, in many oriole species both the male and the female sing in order to defend their territory against other pairs.
The varied habitats of Texas are home to more than 600 different species of birds, and orioles make up a significant proportion of this rich avifauna.
These stunningly colorful birds play a vital role in the ecology of their habitats, and were extensively studied by Texas ornithologist Harry Oberholser.
If you enjoyed this article, check out our guide to the common birds found in Texas.