07.24.22: Baltimore Oriole

A male Baltimore Oriole is surrounded by tall grass, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, Oak Harbor, Ohio.

A male Baltimore Oriole is surrounded by tall grass, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, Oak Harbor, Ohio.

Photographing a cooperative oriole

Tech specs

  • Date/time: May 17, 2017 10:33 AM   
  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II
  • Lens: EF600mm f/4L IS USM +1.4x 
  • Focal length: 840mm
  • Aperture: f/5.6
  • Shutter: 1/1250 second
  • ISO: 400

The Baltimore Oriole is one of my favorite birds to photograph. The male’s brilliant orange and black plumage stands out against leaves that often surround the bird, making for a striking image.

Unfortunately, I don’t see orioles that often when hiking with my camera. And when I do, the leaves that can create an attractive, contrasting background for the orange plumage often become a distracting foreground blocking the view.

It seems as if orioles really don’t want to be photographed, at least by me.

I found this male Baltimore Oriole in spring 2017 when I was photographing migrating warblers on the south shore of Lake Erie in northern Ohio. I had seen several male and female orioles during the more than two hours in the area that morning but, as usual, they were staying behind branches and I couldn’t get a shot. The warblers were plentiful, though, and I had loads of very good photographs so I wasn’t overly concerned about missing out on an oriole.

Then I saw a flash of black and orange to my right. I turned and saw this male Baltimore Oriole land on a broken tree limb at eye level about 30 feet from me. The only objects obscuring my view were stalks of high grass,. The thin grass wouldn’t be a problem in a photo.

So I slowly turned  and pointed my camera — with the huge, white, can’t-miss-seeing-it 26 inch lens — toward the bird, fully expecting it to fly away from the motion. But it stayed.

I was able to get a series of shots before the bird flew off.  Then I went back to the warblers.

According to All About Birds, my go-to source for bird information, Baltimore Orioles eat fruit, nectar and insects with the proportion of each food group varying by season. The oriole’s diet is primarily protein-rich insects during the summer, while breeding and feeding their young. In spring and fall, more of the diet is composed of nectar and ripe fruits. The sugary foods can convert to fat, supplying energy for migration. But unlike most other fruit-eating birds, Baltimore Orioles prefer ripe, dark-colored fruits, ignoring lighter-colored ripe fruits. The site also says that Baltimore Orioles got their name from their bold orange-and-black plumage: they sport the same colors as the heraldic crest of England’s Baltimore family (who also gave their name to Maryland’s largest city).


I had seen several male and female orioles during the more than two hours in the area that morning but, as usual, they were staying behind branches and I couldn’t get a shot. The warblers were plentiful, though, and I had loads of very good photographs so I wasn’t overly concerned about missing out on an oriole.

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