Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Baltimore Oriole - Icterus galbula
Search Common:                 Search Scientific:
General Comments The male Baltimore Oriole is one of the more beautiful birds in North America, nesting over the northeastern United States and southern Canada, extending southward into the mountains of North Carolina. Until the 1960's, it essentially did not winter in the United States, but with milder winters and people putting out oranges and peanut butter on their feeders, and not just various seeds and suet, a number of orioles started wintering from North Carolina to Florida; in fact, several state CBC's routinely had the high count in the country! During the breeding season, a few orioles nest at scattered places in the Piedmont, but it essentially is a montane nester, in broad valleys in tall hardwood trees, typically along a river or lake edge. Riverside trees and groves, some farmyards with tall hardwoods, and open woods and groves near a lake or pond are also inhabited. In winter, they are found in the Coastal Plain and lower Piedmont, mainly in residential areas with some evergreen cover and bird feeders; they are often found amid flocks of American Robins and will feed on berries, as well as at feeders. In migration, orioles are usually seen in hardwood canopy trees, especially in spring; however, numbers can be found on the Outer Banks in fall in various thickets, or wherever they can find cover. As mentioned in the Bullock's Oriole account, these two species were formerly considered as separate species, then lumped as the Northern Oriole, and once again split back out.
Breeding Status Breeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank S3B,S3N
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Transient, and scarce winter resident. In winter, numerically rare to very uncommon; however, in towns and some cities, it can be locally fairly common. It winters across the entire region, from the Outer Banks to towns such as Rocky Mount, Goldsboro, and Southern Pines. It is slightly more widespread in the southeastern portion of the region. In spring, rare to quite uncommon along the western margin of the region, and rare to very rare farther eastward. However, in fall, uncommon over most of the region, but can be fairly common to occasionally common along the coast. Nonetheless, in the 1960's and 1970's, it was quite common as a fall migrant along the coast, but has declined considerably since then. Mainly late Aug to early May. Peak counts: 1580, seen "migrating" north over Run Hill State Natural Area (Dare), 23 Sep 2020; 200, Pea Island NWR, 5 Sep 1997.
Piedmont Transient, scarce winter resident, and very scarce and local summer resident. In summer, very rare and local, and sporadic from year to year, in the western half of the region; casual breeder in the eastern portions; many more records from the Winston-Salem area than elsewhere. A pair tending a nest along Buffalo Church Road (Cleveland) from 6-20 Jun 2020 might be a first breeding record for that county. In migration, generally uncommon in both spring and fall, across the region; in spring more numerous in the western portions than farther east, whereas in fall, more evenly distributed across the province. In winter, uncommon (to locally fairly common) in Raleigh, but generally rare and local in towns and cities elsewhere in the eastern half of the region, and very rare farther westward; possibly absent in some counties. In migration, primarily late Apr to mid-May, and late Aug to early Oct. Peak counts:
Mountains Summer resident, with noticeable migratory movements. In summer, uncommon to fairly common, at least along and near the New River system, in the northern counties; rare to uncommon and local south to Asheville, and rare and local farther southward; seldom breeds above about 3,000 feet, sparingly higher. More numerous in migration, though still mostly uncommon (to at times fairly common) in spring and fall. Amazingly, there seems to be just two winter records: one photographed at a feeder in Woodfin (Buncombe) on 21 Dec 2016, and one in Buncombe on 1 Dec 2023. Mainly late Apr to mid-Sep. Peak counts: 40, Jackson Park (Henderson), 6 Sep 2000; 40, same location, 5 May 2007.
Finding Tips The species should be found in summer by driving along roads that parallel the New River, or South Fork New River, in Ashe -- especially near the confluence of the North and South Forks in the northeastern part of the county. Elsewhere in summer, you might have to go to known specific locales, as well as finding them in winter at known feeders. In migration, they are easiest on the Outer Banks in early fall, right after a cold front.
Attribution LeGrand[2024-05-14], LeGrand[2023-04-02], LeGrand[2021-03-06]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.
NC Breeding Season Map
Map depicts assumed breeding season abundance for the species.