Length: 24 cm
Wingspan: 44 – 47 cm
Weight: 56 – 80 g
Adult male golden orioles have golden yellow upperparts and underparts. The wings are black with yellow tipped coverts which form a patch on the carpal joint when the wings are folded, and a yellow crescent in flight. The flight feathers have pale yellow tips. The tail is black with yellow tips on the outer rectrices.
They have a yellow head with black lores, the bill is dark pink, the eyes are dark red, and the legs and feet are slate-grey.
Female golden orioles have a greenish-yellow mantle and back and yellow rump. The wings are dull green and the tail is dark brown with yellow tips on the outer rectrices. On the underparts the chin, throat, and upper breast are pale grey with dark streaks and the belly is almost white with streaks. The undertail coverts are yellow-green.
The head is greenish-yellow, with dark lores, the bill is dull pink, and the legs and feet are pale grey.
Juveniles are similar to the female but with duller upperparts and more streaks on the underparts.
Golden orioles breed from May to early July. They build their nests suspended from horizontal branches high up in trees and usually near water. The female builds the nest although the male sometimes collects material. It is a cup-shaped structure made from grass, sedges, leaves, twigs, and reeds, as well as string, paper, and pieces of bark, lined with roots, grass, cobwebs, down, fur, wool, moss, and lichens.
Golden orioles lay 2-6 white eggs with dark spots which are incubated by both parents but mostly the female for 14 days. The male will feed the female while she is on the nest. Chicks are brooded by the female and fed by both parents. They can fly at about 14 days after hatching and fledge 2 or 3 days later. They rely on their parents for food for another few weeks and reach sexual maturity at 2-3 years.
Golden orioles mainly eat insects using their bills to pick prey out of crevices. They will also eat fruit and berries towards the end of the breeding season.
Where to see them
Golden orioles can be seen in the UK in May and June. Despite their bright colours they are secretive birds so hard to spot. Look out for them on migration around the south and east coast of England, at dawn in poplar plantations near water.
Did you know?
The word oriole is derived from the Latin aureoles which means ‘golden’, and was first used to describe the bird in the 18th century. Prior to that it was known as the woodwele, and was named after its song.