Also known as the European Golden Oriole or the Eurasian Golden Oriole, this timid but colourful songbird is the size of a common blackbird.
The adult male is a striking looking bird with a golden yellow head, upper body and underparts. The wings and tail are a shiny black with yellow tips to the primary coverts. The underwing coverts are yellow whilst the flight feathers (remiges) have narrow, yellowish white tips. The male’s lores, which is the area immediately in front of the eye and behind the base of the bill, is black, giving the impression of the bird wearing a small mask. The eyes are a deep dark red and the medium to large bill is a bright pinkish red. Legs are grey blue in colour. The female lacks the male’s distinctive golden yellow colour and instead has predominantly pale yellowish green upper body parts and upper wing coverts with dark grey to black wings and a yellow rump. The area of the chin morphing to the upper breast is a pale grey. The lower breast, belly and flanks are a pale yellow with black streaks and the bill is more pink than red. The female is also without the black mask worn proudly by the male. Juveniles are similar to the adult female although generally duller and with heavier underpart streaking.
Male Golden Oriole
Female Golden Oriole
Golden orioles are often heard singing to each other in melodious duets with the female answering the male’s soft whistling sounds with a ‘skweeeeer‘ response. The sound of the male singing can often be heard emanating from thick foliage although sighting the bird can prove extremely difficult in these circumstances.
Golden Oriole call
Sergio Mazzotti, XC575829. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/575829.
At home feeding from the foliage high up in the trees or foraging on the ground, the golden oriole takes small invertebrates such as caterpillars and also fruits and seeds.
The European golden oriole is a migratory bird preferring to overwinter in sub Saharan Africa but spending summer and the breeding season in the more temperate climates of western Europe and eastwards into Mongolia and northwest China.
Golden orioles like trees! They live in forests, feed in forests and breed in forests. Only occasionally will they venture in to open spaces to forage for food or nesting material. Broadleaf woodlands, mixed and coniferous forests, plantations, orchards and even urban and suburban gardens are used as habitats by these birds. The adult male, once spotted is easy to identify with the female being less so and often confused with a green woodpecker, particularly during flight. Nesting high in the forest canopy they are difficult to spot from the ground and often their singing is the only indication of their presence.
Female Golden Oriole in flight
The male golden oriole arrives at the nesting site a few days prior to the arrival of his mate in order to chase away intruders and lay claim to his territory. Once the female arrives she starts to build the nest which is a woven structure made of almost anything to hand from bark, reeds, grasses and other vegetable matter to animal fur and hair and man made fibres or synthetic waste. The nest, a shallow cup shape, is located high in the forest or wood where it is suspended beneath a fork in the branches high up in the tree canopy. Annually, between May to June, and in some areas July, one brood of 3 – 5 pale cream eggs, with black splodges, are laid and incubated by both parents for a period of up to seventeen days. Nestlings are fed by the male and female and fledging has normally occurred by three weeks.
Golden Orioles feeding chicks in nest
Golden Oriole adult with juvenile
Average life expectancy for the European golden oriole is between five to ten years.
Eurasian golden oriole
44cm to 47cm
56g to 79g
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