Maryland State Bird - Baltimore Oriole


Baltimore Oriole

(Icterus galbula)
Adopted in 1947.

The Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula) is the official Maryland bird (Chapter 54, Acts of 1947; Code State Government Article, sec. 13-302).

The female oriole's feathers are brownish-olive and dull orange, but the male's plumage is black and golden orange not unlike colors in the Calvert shield. This similarity led to its early association with the name of the Maryland proprietor. In 1698, "Baltemore Birds" were among the "Beasts of Curiosity" ordered sent from Maryland to grace the royal gardens (Archives of Maryland 23:455-56). In 1894, Baltimore's major league baseball team was named after the bird.

Maryland made special provisions to protect the Baltimore Oriole in 1882 (Chapter 154, Acts of 1882). Since passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, the Baltimore Oriole is protected by federal law covering all migratory bird species, and, since 1975, by the State's Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act (Chapter 27, Acts of 1975).

Despite its special status, since 1966 (and more rapidly after 1980) the number of Baltimore Orioles has been declining. The loss is attributed to destruction of breeding habitat and tropical winter habitat, and toxic pesticides ingested by the insects which constitute the Oriole's main diet.

In the late 1930s, Hoagy Carmichael composed the song, "Baltimore Oriole," lyrics by Paul Francis Webster.

Identification Tips
  • Length: 6.5 inches
  • Sharply-pointed bill
  • Black head, back, wings and tail
  • Orange underparts, shoulder, and rump
  • Orange tips to outer tail feathers
  • White wing bar and edges
  • Immature male similar to female but brighter orange with variable amounts of black on head
  • Brownish-gray upperparts
  • Dull yellowish-orange breast and undertail coverts
  • Gray belly
  • Two wing bars
Kingdom Animalia -- animals
   Phylum Chordata -- chordates
      Subphylum Vertebrata -- vertebrates
         Class Aves -- birds
            Order Passeriformes -- perching birds
               Family Fringillidae -- buntings, finches, grosbeaks, old world finches, sparrows
                  Genus Icterus Brisson, 1760 -- american orioles
                     Species Icterus galbula (Linnaeus, 1758) -- Bolsero de Baltimore, northern oriole