Courtship Behavior of the Orchard Oriole: A photo essay

On a hike through Tommy Thompson Park in Toronto near the end of May, I noticed a bird sitting in a tree. It was small in size and yellow in color: a female Orchard Oriole.

A female Orchard Oriole

She sat on an exposed perch with a long piece of grass in her mouth. Was she collecting nesting material? She turned her head this way and that. First to the right.

A female Orchard Oriole

And then to the left. What was she looking for?

A female Orchard Oriole

Suddenly, a male Orchard Oriole appeared on a branch just below the female. In contrast to the female’s rather drab plumage, the male’s feathers were colored dark red and black.

A male and female Orchard Oriole

He sat in place for a minute, then did something strange. Bending over, he pressed his wings down and exposed the richly colored plumage of his back.

A male Orchard Oriole

Was the female impressed with this display? When the male looked to the right, she turned her head to the left.

Male and female Orchard Orioles

When he looked to the left, she turned her head to the right.

A male and female Orchard Oriole

Perhaps they weren’t hitting it off. The male, impatient, soon flew away. The female was alone again, with the piece of grass in her bill. Did it have a slightly bitter taste, now that her suitor was gone? How much longer would she sit there, waiting for the perfect mate?

Female Orchard Oriole

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3 thoughts on “Courtship Behavior of the Orchard Oriole: A photo essay”

  1. Just got this from Vid. Pretty exciting to witness that behaviour. Not sure I’ve seen a male and female Orchard Oriole close enough to fit in the same picture so to see a mating ritual and to be able to document so of the behaviour would certainly make one’s day.

    • Thanks, Walter–I’m glad you enjoyed the photo essay. I have to admit, it took me a while to realize what was going on, but I was very happy to watch the story as it unfolded.


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