Male. Note: black face and bright orange body.
  • Male
  • Male. Note: black face and bright orange body.
  • Female. Note: pale edged coverts and long slightly curved bill.
  • 1st year male. Note: black throat.

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Hooded Oriole

Icterus cucullatus
Members of this diverse group make up more than half of the bird species worldwide. Most are small. However their brains are relatively large and their learning abilities are greater than those of most other birds. Passerine birds are divided into two suborders, the suboscines and the oscines. Oscines are capable of more complex song, and are considered the true songbirds. In Washington, the tyrant flycatchers are the only suboscines; the remaining 27 families are oscines.
This New World family of medium and large songbirds is very familiar, as most species are common inhabitants in human-altered settings. Many are partly to entirely black, often with iridescence or bright markings of some sort. Most blackbird species form flocks at certain times of the year, and many form multispecies flocks. Blackbirds live in open habitats and eat seeds, grain, and insects. They often forage in agricultural areas, where they can be considered pests. These birds generally forage on the ground where they are well adapted for a behavior called gaping. They insert their long, slender bills into the ground, and then open their bills to get at underground insects. Blackbirds also use this technique to get into fruits and some insects, and to reach insects that are cocooned inside wrapped leaves. Most build open-cup nests in trees, shrubs, or on the ground. Many members of this family are polygynous. Females generally build the nests and incubate the eggs, and males help feed the young.

    General Description

    The adult male is mainly orange but with a black back, tail, face, and bib. The dark wing shows two white wingbars, the upper one stronger. The female is plain olive-green above and yellowish-green below, and is easily confused with the female Orchard Oriole. Hooded is somewhat larger than Orchard overall with a longer bill and a longer tail. See field guides for identification pointers for separating the various oriole species in immature and female plumages.

    The Hooded Oriole breeds from California across the lower Southwest to southern Texas and adjacent parts of northern Mexico, and down both coasts of Mexico. Northern populations move south to Mexico for the winter. Most records from the Pacific Northwest are spring “overshoots” of returning migrants, with a few extending into July. Idaho’s only record, in 2000, stayed right through June and July. Roughly one-third of Oregon’s twenty-plus records have occurred in winter, including several birds that stayed for many weeks. British Columbia has about six records, most in spring and all from coastal sites; one bird remained near Prince Rupert for the entire winter (19 November–2 April). Washington’s seven accepted records are all from the Westside lowlands; six were from spring and the other was in July.

    Revised November 2007

    North American Range Map

    North America map legend

    Federal Endangered Species ListAudubon/American Bird Conservancy Watch ListState Endangered Species ListAudubon Washington Vulnerable Birds List

    View full list of Washington State's Species of Special Concern