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Golden oriole { Birds of Europe}

Updated on August 9, 2015

Golden oriole. Oriolus oriolus



The Golden Oriole belongs to the order of birds known as the Passeriformes and the family Oriolidae within that Order. They have been allocated the genus and specific name of Oriolus,which derives from the Latin aureolus meaning golden. they breed in Europe and western Asia and winter in Africa and India.

Here in the UK they are classed as a migrant breeders and passage winter visitor. There are only a few records of them breeding in the UK { only about three pairs in summer},and they are placed on the Red list of conservation concern because of breeding population declines between 1981-2007. { Source BTO}

In Europe it is regarded as being secure and the total population is currently estimated at between 2.4 and 4.1 million pairs. there has however, been declines in a number of declines in some countries notably France and Turkey during the 1990-2000, and the vast majority of populations are in the east of their European range, such as in Russia. The populations vary from country to country - there follows some selected examples.

Austria the population is estimated at between 6,000-12,000 Breeding Pairs {BP}, Belgium,1,600-3,800 BP. Croatia,50,000-100,000 BP.France 150,000-600,000 BP. Germany ,40,000-90,000 BP. Poland 10,000-100,000 BP. Russia 1-3 million BP. Sweden 50-100 BP. Turkey 350,000-600,000 BP. Ukraine 140,000-190,000 BP. { Source Birdlife}

Golden Oriole


Australian Fig bird is related to Orioles

Originally posted to Flickr. Uploaded by Flckr bot. to Commons.
Originally posted to Flickr. Uploaded by Flckr bot. to Commons. | Source

Female Baltimore Oriole. The Baltimore Oriole is unrelated to the European Orioles.

Originally posted to Flickr. uploaded to Commons by Tm {talk}
Originally posted to Flickr. uploaded to Commons by Tm {talk} | Source

What are Orioles?

Orioles of the family Oriolidae comprise of the Fig birds of the genus Sphecotheres and the Old world Orioles of the genus Oriolus. The Fig birds are medium sized Passerines around 20-30 cm in length. The beak is slightly curved and hooked and except in the case of the Fig birds,as long again as the head.

The plumage of most species are bright and showy although females generally have duller plumage than their mates do. The family is distributed across Africa,Europe,Asia and Australia. The few temperate nesting species are migratory . They are arboreal birds tending to feed in the canopy.

In America species such as the Baltimore Oriole belong to the genus Icterus and the family Iceridae,are known as New World Warblers. The family is similar but unrelated to the family Oriolidae,to which are subject belongs and as usual we commence with a description of the subject under review.

Courtesy of 555Makiko Standard YouTube License.

Description of the Golden Oriole

At a glance----The Blackbird sized male has an unmistakable bright yellow body with black wings.They are secretive birds which keep to the high canopy of the trees. It can be heard most often at dawn,giving a distinctive fluting whistle. It flies rather like a thrush,slightly undulating.

In more detail---the male in spring is a bright yellow, the long wings {except the terminal third of the primary feathers} and a great part of the tail are black.The primary feathers excepting the two outermost,are edged externally,and the secondary feathers are yellowish white. the two central feathers are yellowish at the base,and yellow at the tip,and other feathers have the terminal third of the outer webs,and the borders of the inner webs yellow.

The bill is a reddish-ochreous colour. The feet a leaden grey. The iris is bright red.

The female is much duller than the male,greener and the black colouring replaced by a deep brown. The throat,breast and centre of the body whitish. The throat,breast and flanks are streaked greyish.

Orioles are hard to spot in the tree canopy


General and Historical information.

Butler, {1896}, who knew the bird by the scientific name of Oriolus galbula made the following observations " The Golden Oriole is a regular visitor to our shores in the spring, the largest number being seen in the Scilly islands and Cornwall {SW.England}."

In these more modern days the bird is found in southern and eastern England. they may be encountered on migration on the south or east coast of England. It generally arrives in the month of May and stays until August and the song is heard from May until July. There are now only around three pairs that actually breed in England ,however there are also about eighty five passage visitors recorded each season.

Referring back to Butler,it seems the bird may have been a more common in the 1800's than it is now as far as breeding pairs are concerned. " There are several instances of its breeding on record. In 1868 I saw a male specimen of this bird near Linton in Devonshire,and in July ,1887, I was just to late to see the species in Essex. According to notes from a reliable local ornithologist there had been a bird there only days before I arrived. In Ireland it chiefly occurs on the east coast, most of the examples being females or immature males."

The Golden oriole frequents gardens,groves,plantations and thickets and the outskirts of large woods,especially in the neighbourhood of water. as mentioned it is very shy and secretive and it is rarely seen choosing to remain in the densest foliage,as if aware of its perilous brilliance of its plumage.

The food of this species consists largely of insects and their larvae,spiders and the like.However, as the fruit season approaches,its diet changes somewhat and fruits such as cherries are relished by it.

Illustration of a pair of Golden Orioles

Coloured Illustrations of British Birds and their Eggs. Meyer 1842-1850,courtesy of the BHL
Coloured Illustrations of British Birds and their Eggs. Meyer 1842-1850,courtesy of the BHL

Keeping wild birds was once a popular past time.

Courtesy of the BHL
Courtesy of the BHL

Orioles in Captivity

In the days before it became illegal to keep wild birds in captivity {with a few licensed exceptions} Bird-catchers made a good living from obtaining birds by any means,usually by using mist nets, and selling them to enthusiasts as cage or aviary birds or as food to the markets.the following few paragraphs relate to that period in our avian history.

One such bird enthusiast makes the following observations. " In confinement the Oriole does well on the usual food for insectivorous birds. being both beautiful and musical it is much esteemed as a cage bird,and years ago , I asked a friend to obtain nestlings for me, but perhaps it is just as well that he did not succeed in securing any for me, for they seem not to be easy to bring up"

Lord Lilford, seems to confirm that statement he wrote-" i have found the young very difficult to keep alive for more than a week or two,though I know of instances in which they have ben reared with success"

Butler, revealed his thoughts on the subject. " I think it extremely probable that aviculturists when trying to rear insectivorous birds, feed them to far to well, in the case of large birds like Thrushes,Starlings or Orioles it might be advantageously varied with soaked Ant's cocoons, or living Ant's cocoons if they are ready procurable. The Orioles in confinement do not differ from other insectivorous birds in their passionate love of both meal worms and spiders,and a few of either everyday are not only wholesome,but also tend to tame them"

Female on nest


Courtesy of Ingmars Lidaka.Standard You Tube license.

Breeding ,nest and eggs.

The nesting season commences from May-June. The nest of the Golden oriole is usually, though not invariably suspended between the forking branches of an Oak tree,frequently at a considerable height from the ground,at located at the end of a somewhat slender bough.

The outer walls are formed of broad leaved sedges,grasses and strips of bark {often white birch bark} and wool etc. It is carefully inter woven and includes the branches between which it hangs. The lining consists of fine grasses,sometimes with the flowering heads still attached.

The Rev. H.A. Macpherson 'Zoologist',1891, states, " I do not think that the female of the oriole would be at all exposed to danger when sitting in bright colours. It is not easy to see even the male go into the top of a big Oak or Elm in the breeding season. The crouch close to the boughs if alarmed,and neither they nor their nests are easily distinguished among the fully expanded leaves"

The eggs which number three to four are a shining milk white,with scattered purplish black spots and occasionally a few greyish shell spots. The incubation period lasts for around sixteen to seventeen days and the task is in the main carried out by the female with occasional relief from her mate. The young are fed a high protein diet of insects that allows them to leave their abode in a further sixteen to seventeen days. This species only raises one brood per season.

The young birds are greener and browner than the female,but otherwise very similar. The bill is browner than in the male. The head,crown and neck on the back and nape a dusky yellowish white,the latter with a central line of brown on each feather and the last named yellow on the sides. The back is a dusky yellowish grey.

The primary feathers the secondary feathers and the tertiaries, brown, the tail a brownish olive colour. The upper tail coverts tipped with yellow, under tail coverts yellow.


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    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      Hi Deb,I agree with all your comments. Thank you for visiting and best wishes to you.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Such a rare beauty. Those orioles are the best weavers in the world.

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      Hello Devika Glad you enjoyed this species. As always thank you for your kind comments and all the votes,much appreciated. Best wishes to you..


      Hi, you are very welcome and thank you for your appreciated comments. Best wishes to you.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      What a beautiful bird! Thank you for sharing your knowledge in such an informative hub.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      A beautiful colored bird. Most unusual and so interesting. I always enjoy reading about birds. You have opened up my knowledge on these lovely creatures. Voted, useful and interesting. and beautiful.

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      Hi, thank you for visiting and for taking the time to comment. They are indeed beautiful birds. Thank you,also for the additional information which I found interesting. Best wishes to you.

    • Sunardi profile image


      3 years ago from Indonesia

      Wonderful bird. I've never seen before here in Indonesia, Asia. The combination black and yellow color make more beautiful. I like the black line near the eyes.

      Curious to know the real.

      People usually import Canary from Yorkshire. They usually immediately breed the bird with local canary, because it often died after several days living here.


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