It's the Baltimore oriole that most people think of as "oriole," that brilliant orange and black bird named for the British Baltimore family colors. He sits slightly larger than his cousin that, unlike other orioles, wears dark russet, not orange. Baltimore females appear dressed in a washed-out version of the male's plumage, but the orchard female sports a delicately camouflaged yellow-green plumage.
Both build astonishing pendulous nests that sway gently in the breeze, although the Baltimore's nest is typically a bit longer.
The question everyone has, of course, is how does one attract orioles to the yard. While books say they readily come to fruit, especially halved oranges, and frequently feed at nectar feeders, I've had no such luck in our yard. It's wise to note, however, that only in spring do orioles dine on fruit and nectar. Later they switch to all protein--insects.
When I have seen orioles in the yard, they've been stripping wisteria vines or grape vines, gathering long fibers to weave their nests.
For birds, then, it's all about habitat. Since orioles come here only to nest, the availability of nest materials and nest sites peaks habitat requirements. Of course, insects remain essential.
In mid-May, we spent five days photographing birds at Magee Marsh abutting Ohio's Lake Erie shoreline. There, Baltimore orioles way outnumbered cardinals, and a few orchard orioles also slipped through the high branches.
And that's the key word: high. Mostly orioles prefer to forage in the upper canopy. When tulip poplar trees bloom here, I can count on watching orioles bury their little faces in the flowers to glean nectar. Otherwise, though, they're rummaging through the high canopy for insects.
Orange halves jammed on low limbs never fail to attract their early-season attention, and one creative visitor poked orange halves on her auto's windshield wipers, enjoying an up-close-and-personal look at feeding orioles while she sat inside her car eating her own lunch.