The hooded oriole is a medium sized bird, generally about 18-20 cm long, although females are often slightly smaller. The males are the eye catchers though—with colors ranging from yellow to orange, and black wings, tail, and bibs on their faces, throats, and upper chests. The females’ colors are more subdued—olive grey on top of their bodies with olive yellow on the bottom. Juvenile males are similar to females in appearance. When the male is courting the female, he performs a showy series of bows, then hops around her, posturing and singing softly. If she likes him, she responds by doing the same dance. And these orioles are not only social within their own groups—they are also known to flock with similar species.
In the breeding season, the hooded oriole not only visits California, but also makes its way through parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. While these birds originally enjoyed streamside habitats—and still do—they can also now be found in many city parks and suburban areas, preferably ones that contain eucalyptus trees, or better yet, the hooded oriole’s favorite tree, the palm. They weave their nests into the fronds by pulling fibers through the leaves and securing the nests in place. And although they place their homes so carefully, their nests are often co-opted by the bronzed cowbird, which often lays its eggs in the nests of other birds. Hooded orioles lay from three to five eggs at a time, with cowbirds often laying one to two of their own eggs inside these same nests. Hooded oriole eggs can be identified by their coloring, which can range from white to pale yellow with greyish-brown spots.
With their decurved bills, hooded orioles are often spotted foraging for food such as insects, nectar, and fruit, inside flowers. When they aren’t looking for their next meal, they can be seen weaving their nests in places like the Presidio and Golden Gate Park. So the next time you’re out for a walk enjoying the summertime warmth, be sure to look around and see if you spot one of these bibbed beauties!
Photo credits: Bob Gunderson (top and bottom)