This summer, Our Bird House team had even more to celebrate as we welcomed three Baltimore oriole chicks! This species, though not endangered, is incredibly significant to the Washington, D.C., area, as the state bird of Maryland. During spring and summer, it is common to see them in forests, fields and backyards in our region. This brilliantly colored orange and black songbird has a clear, flute-like whistle.
Males have a black head and back, and a bright, boldly colored orange breast and underparts. They also have black wings with orange bars and white trim. Females are less boldly colored, with olive-brown to orange coloration, and brown wings with white wing bars.
The chicks’ mother hatched here—at Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute—in June 2020. Their father hatched that same month at Nashville Zoo. Zoo staff choose which animals to breed by considering their genetic makeup, health and temperament, among other factors. Like all Baltimore orioles, these two have very strong personalities and can be assertive, demanding and bossy at times!
Baltimore orioles are well-known for their basket-like nest, which usually hangs about 30 feet off the ground and is extremely strong. Like the orchard orioles, this pair chose to construct their nest out of raffia and shredded newspaper.
The couple bred in June, and the female laid four blue-gray eggs. All of the chicks hatched, though only three survived. Our Baltimore orioles were one of the first species to successfully breed in the Bird Friendly Coffee Farm aviary! The chicks fledged around 2 weeks of age, though their wings continued to grow for another 3 weeks. At only 5 weeks of age, Baltimore oriole chicks are capable of sustained flight.
I am happy to report that both parents helped feed and care for their offspring. They did a great job of raising their chicks!
In choosing names for our three Baltimore oriole chicks, Governor Wes Moore was inspired by Maryland’s own Major League Baseball team, the Baltimore Orioles! The first chick was named in honor of “Mr. Oriole” himself, former third baseman and Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson. The second chick’s moniker honors former shortstop and Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. Governor Moore bestowed the name Adam Jones on the third chick, honoring the former outfielder and five-time MLB All-Star.
What’s Next for the Chicks?
Although the orchard and Baltimore oriole chicks that hatched this summer will not be on exhibit here at the Zoo, they have an exciting future ahead. They will be going to other zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, where they will serve as ambassadors for their species and, eventually, contribute to their species’ survival. Importantly, what our team has learned about breeding these species in human care can be applied to breeding rare and endangered orioles.
If you are planning a visit to the Bird House, you will find our adult Baltimore and orchard orioles in the Bird Friendly Coffee Farm aviary. They are active throughout the day and tend to spend time at the top of trees and at the nectar feeders.
About the Bird House
The innovative Bird House exhibit explores the fascinating world of migratory songbirds, waterfowl and shorebirds native to North, Central and South American ecosystems. Migratory birds play critical roles in pest control, pollination and seed dispersal for trees and plants as well as crops. Three aviaries—the Delaware Bay, a lush prairie pothole and a tropical Bird Friendly coffee farm—tell the story of how migratory birds connect communities and contribute to healthy ecosystems across the Americas.
As visitors “migrate” through the Bird House, free-flighted birds stride, paddle, tweet and fly all around them. These multi-sensory, immersive aviaries mimic natural ecosystems—places that are of critical importance to the annual life cycles of migratory birds and that boost human well-being. From this exhibit, visitors can learn seven simple actions to live bird friendly to protect native species—including orchard and Baltimore orioles—in their own backyards.
Meet our orioles and more songbirds at the Bird House! Get your free entry passes here. Want to learn more? Don’t miss How Do Birds Handle the Heat?