Frequently Asked Questions
Students' Questions and Experts' Answers
Contributed by Ornithology Expert Laura Erickson
Ways to use in the Classroom


Q.How did Baltimore and Bullock's orioles get their names?

A. The Baltimore oriole was named the "Baltimore-Bird" by a man named Mark Catesby in 1731 because its bright orange and black colors were the same as the family colors of the Baltimore family, the English family of Lords and Ladies who ruled the colony of Maryland.

Bullock's oriole is named for William Bullock, an English traveler who was also the proprietor of the Bullock's Museum in London. He owned a mine near Mexico City, and when he went to visit, he killed ("collected") several birds new to science, including Bullock's oriole.

Q. What are the Baltimore oriole and Bullock's oriole's scientific names and how are they classified?

Both orioles belong to the

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Vertebrata
  • Class: Aves (birds)
  • Order: Passeriformes (perching birds)
  • Family: Icteridae (blackbirds)
  • Genus: Icterus
  • Species:
    • Baltimore: galbula
    • Bullock's: bullockii

So the Baltimore oriole's scientific name is Icterus galbula

And the Bullock's oriole's scientific name is Icterus bullockii

Q. How big are Orioles?

A. These bright orange and black birds are in the same family as blackbirds and are about the size of red-winged blackbirds, about 7 - 8 1/2 inches long, with a wingspan of 11 1/4 - 12 1/4 inches.. They weigh about 1 - 1 3/4 ounce.

Q. What color are orioles?

A. Male Baltimore orioles are flame orange with a black head. Females are a dull or olive green on the top and mostly yellow on the bottom. Male Bullock's Orioles have more white in the wing, and the orange underside goes up to include much of the face, with black on the back, crown, and throat. Females are similar in color to Baltimore females.

Q. The oriole is the state bird for what U.S. state?


Q. Can you teach an oriole to talk?

No. Orioles are in the blackbird family, and blackbirds are not very good at imitating other species. You wouldn't want to teach an oriole to talk anyway. Their beautiful song is much nicer to listen to!