Hooded Oriole

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Hooded Oriole

Icterus cucullatus

Last updated: May 22, 2022
Verified by: IMP
Image Credit Andrej Chudy/Shutterstock.com

Hooded orioles have a strong sweet tooth that makes nectar and jelly among its favorite foods.

Hooded Oriole Scientific Classification

Scientific Name
Icterus cucullatus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Hooded Oriole Conservation Status

Hooded Oriole Locations

Hooded Oriole Locations

Hooded Oriole Facts

Fun Fact
Hooded orioles have a strong sweet tooth that makes nectar and jelly among its favorite foods.
Estimated Population Size
Biggest Threat
Most Distinctive Feature
Downturned, pointed bill
Distinctive Feature
Bright orange coloring
Other Name(s)
Palm-leaf oriole
9 – 11 inches
Incubation Period
13 days
Favorite Food
Nectar, caterpillars, grubs, berries, beetles, wasps, ants
Common Name
Hooded oriole
Number Of Species
Southwestern U.S., Mexico
Nesting Location
Palm leaves (if available). They also nest in shade trees, including cottonwood, sycamore, walnut, and large shrubs near bodies of water.
Age of Molting
1 year

Hooded Oriole Physical Characteristics

  • Yellow
  • Black
  • White
  • Orange
3 – 5 years in the wild, with the record being 6 years
.08 ounces
1 – 2 inches
7 – 8 inches

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The hooded oriole is a medium-sized songbird known for its bright orange coloring.

It belongs to the family Icteridae, which is the family of blackbirds, meadowlarks, cowbirds, and orioles. Native to the southern and southwestern parts of the United States, it is a migratory bird that is extremely popular with backyard birders. This bird has a strong sweet tooth that makes nectar and jelly among its favorite foods.

4 Amazing Facts About the Hooded Oriole

  • In California, the hooded oriole is known as the palm-leaf oriole because of its fondness for palm trees.
  • Hooded orioles will eat grape jelly from a feeder.
  • The hooded oriole is one of the few songbirds whose population is increasing.
  • Hooded orioles vary in color depending on their geographic location.

Where to Find Hooded Orioles

Hooded orioles inhabit trees with wide leaves, and they are especially fond of palm trees. They also nest in shade trees, including cottonwood, sycamore, walnut, and large shrubs. They prefer to build their nests close to bodies of water. They are a common visitor to backyard feeders, and you can spot them in most city parks. Some people who put out hummingbird feeders find these feeders also attract hooded orioles.

This oriole has a pointed, downturned bill that makes it distinct from other orioles.

This bird lives in small regions of the southern and southwestern parts of the United States. Its range extends into northern Mexico.

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How to Attract Hooded Orioles

Are you interested in attracting hooded orioles to your yard? These birds are very fond of sweets and fruits. Try hanging sliced oranges on posts or other platforms. Hang a feeder filled with sugar water that has slightly larger holes than a hummingbird feeder.

Birding experts also recommend containers holding mealworms and small containers of grape jelly. You can feed the jelly in a jar lid or a small can, but be sure to fasten it to the post or feeder. For the best results, use jelly that doesn’t have artificial sweeteners or colors. Orioles don’t eat birdseed.

Hooded Oriole Scientific Name

The hooded oriole’s scientific name is Icterus cucullatus. The first part of the name comes from the Latin word icterus, which is a Latinized form of the Greek word ikteros meaning “yellow bird.” The word cucullatus is a Latin word meaning “hooded.”

There are five subspecies of hooded oriole divided into two groups: those found in the eastern part of Texas and those that live in New Mexico and further south. They are:

  • I.c. culcullatus
  • l.c. sennetti:
  • I.c. igneus:
  • I.c. nelson
  • I.c. trochiloides

There are color differences among these birds. Hooded orioles in Texas and eastern Mexico are bright oranges, but those in the southwestern U.S. and western Mexico are bright yellow.

The hooded oriole is one of the four types of orioles found in the southern states and Mexico. The others are the Altamira oriole, Audubon oriole, and streak-backed oriole.

Hooded Oriole Appearance

Like other orioles, the hooded oriole has distinctive black, yellow, and white coloring. It is about 8 inches long with a long tail and pointed bill. The male is more darkly colored with a deep orange head and chest, black-and-white striped wings, and long black tail feathers. The male also has a dark chest and bill. The female is bright yellow with a green back and white-striped wings.

Males in northwestern Mexico and the southwestern United States tend to be more yellow, while males in south Texas and eastern Mexico are more orange.

The average hooded oriole is 7 to 8 inches long and weighs 0.8 of an ounce. It has a wingspan of 9 to 11 inches.

Hooded oriole on a yellow flower
The male hooded oriole has a deep orange head and chest, black-and-white striped wings, and long black tail feathers.


Hooded Oriole Behavior

Like all birds, the hooded oriole has a unique song. It emits a series of chattering notes and cries. Orioles are good mimics of other birds and will mix the sounds of woodpeckers and ash-throated flycatchers.


Hooded orioles are migratory, but they don’t make the long distances many bird species are famous for going on. Instead, they take short trips during the cold winter months to southern Texas, Nevada, and California. Their migration season is February through March.

Some hooded orioles choose to spend the winters at home without migrating. These are usually birds who have regular food sources in backyard feeders.


The hooded oriole finds its food on its favorite trees. This bird eats insects, spiders, fruits, and nectar. The hooded oriole is not an aggressive predator. It takes its time foraging among the tree leaves for its food. Among the bird’s favorite foods are:

Predators and Threats

Like all songbirds, hooded orioles are prey for domestic cats and raptors like hawks and owls. Snakes may also attack and eat orioles.

The major threat to hooded orioles is brood parasitism. Brown-headed and bronzed cowbirds frequently lay their eggs in the nests of hooded orioles, and female orioles may end up raising these intruder babies at the expense of their own offspring.

Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan

Hooded orioles breed twice a year. Their breeding months are April and August. The male oriole performs a courtship dance that includes deep bowing and pointing his bill upward.

The female builds a cup-shaped nest high in the tree branches. After mating, the mother lays about four eggs. The eggs may be white or pale blue. Incubation takes 13 days. When the babies are born, both mother and father feed them. Fledglings leave the nest at about 14 days.

Hooded orioles typically have a lifespan of three to five years in the wild. The longest lifespan on record for a hooded oriole was a six-year-old male who lived in California.

Nest Features

The oriole’s nest is usually made from grasses, plant material, hair, and feathers. Some females place the nest under a large leaf, a clump of mistletoe, or a patch of moss. This helps hide the nest from predators. Males usually contribute building materials, but females do most of the nest-building work.

Hooded orioles use a technique that “sews” the nest to a secure leaf. When the nest is suspended from palm leaves, the mother pokes holes in the leaf and pushes the fibers through to make stitches. This creates a firm hold that keeps the nest secure under the leaf.


There are an estimated 350,000 hooded orioles in the U.S. It is one of the few songbird species whose numbers are increasing. The species is listed as “least concern” on the International Union of Concerned Scientists (IUCN) Red List.

Sunny Backyard Bird

The hooded oriole is a harbinger of warm weather and a bright ray of golden sunshine. It’s easy to attract this favorite bird to a feeding station. If the bird likes the food you supply, it may stay in your yard all year.

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Hooded Oriole FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Does the hooded oriole migrate?

Yes, but it does not travel a long distance. Most hooded orioles travel from their southern states to California, Nevada, or Texas. Some hooded orioles choose to over-winter and stay in the same place all year.

How many eggs does a hooded oriole lay?

It lays from three to five eggs each brooding season. The eggs are pale white or pale blue and may have black spots.

What is a hooded oriole’s wingspan?

A typical wingspan is 9 to 11 inches. The hooded oriole is one of the larger members of the oriole family.

When does a baby hooded oriole leave the nest?

Baby orioles are ready to leave the nest in about 14 days.

Are hooded orioles native to California?

No, but they visit there every winter during their migration. They are native to a few locations in the southern and southwestern parts of the U.S.

Where does the hooded oriole live?

Its preferred habitat is dry, open spaces with plenty of shade trees. Its favorite trees are palm, sycamore, and walnut.

Where do hooded orioles go in the winter?

Some travel to warmer climates in California, Nevada, and Texas. Others have been found as far south as Belize, but that is unusual.

Does the hooded oriole have any meaning or symbolism?

In beliefs about spirit animals, orioles symbolize friendship and spreading joy. An oriole may signify that someone you know needs cheering up. That’s the perfect symbolism for these cheerfully colored, friendly birds.

  1. Audobon Field Guide to Birds, Available here: https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/hooded-oriole
  2. Sonoma Birding, Available here: https://www.sonomabirding.com/do-orioles-migrate/
  3. American Bird Conservancy, Available here: https://abcbirds.org/blog20/orioles-species-united-states/
  4. Birds and Blooms, Available here: https://www.birdsandblooms.com/birding/attracting-birds/feeding-birds/what-do-orioles-eat/

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