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In the United States, the American Robin and Baltimore oriole are some of the most famous birds in the country. The American robin has long been known for its relationship to the song “Rockin’ Robin” by Bobby Day, and the oriole shines as the mascot of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team. However, they have many differences in the wild, and some may have trouble identifying whether or not the bird in question is a robin or oriole. Luckily, we’ve organized all the information you need to know about these species so that you can spot their unique traits.
Male orioles have a black, white, grey, and orange mixture of colors. Their underbelly, legs, and tail have a saturated orange color. Their backs are sleek black, and they have a whitish-grey pattern on their wings. However, female orioles are a yellowish color all-around, with a few deep-orange spots on their belly. Their wings and back are brown.
Orioles are omnivorous, eating a healthy diet of insects or fruits. However, orioles spend a lot of time in treetops to forage for insects feeding on foliage. They nest in trees to avoid ground-level predators such as cats, coyotes, or other predatory animals.
Orioles live in nearly every state in the eastern region of North America, as well as a large area of Central and South America and some areas of southern Canada. Yet, they do not stay in one place for the entire year. Instead, they migrate from their northern breeding grounds closer to South America and tropical environments.
The song of an oriole is light and airy but isn’t low in volume. Their calls are quick and aren’t like the vocal cues of other birds in their area. The best way to spot them singing is to look high in the canopy and listen for chattering or whistling sounds.
The typical robin displays an orange underbelly, with the rest of its feathers and wings having a faded grey color. They have a yellow bill that sets them apart from many other species, in addition to a blackish grey head. Generally speaking, male robins have more prominent colors.
The robin is an omnivorous bird that eats mainly worms, especially earthworms. That is why you’ll see them prancing on the ground digging in the dirt for insects that lie under moist soil. You might expect them to nest close to the ground, but they still tend to make their homes in the trees.
The American robin lives in nearly every town, field, or mountain in North America. Their incredible range spans from the Arctic regions of Alaska to portions of southern Mexico. However, their northern habitats are temporary since they only stay there during the breeding season. Below the Canadian border, it’s likely that you’ll find most robins staying year-round, as they have the strength to outlast the colder months.
Robins tend to have an uplifting voice and can be heard most often in the morning. Their happy vocals are usually identified as chirps or tweets.
Compared to the robin, orioles have a much brighter and more vibrant orange color. Likewise, the orange of their body extends to their tail, but the robins’ do not. Their bodies are much darker due to the sleek black plumage of their back, which also includes their beak. Robins have a yellow bill, but the orioles’ have a black bill. Additionally, female orioles are easy to spot since they do not share the orange and black tones of males.
In the western United States, namely the southwest, it’s almost a guarantee you’ll see a robin in its habitat since orioles have a range that stops at states such as Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado, slightly losing much of their prominence in the southwest. Robins also tend to live in northern areas of the continent, but the oriole stays in warmer climates, even reaching as far as the northern tip of South America after migration. The robin is considered the most abundant bird in the states, and they are spotted more frequently.
The oriole can be heard more often in the high canopy as it sings, and it has a whistling sound to its vocals. On the other hand, robins have a cheerful chirp that can be heard closer to the ground.
Both the oriole and the robin are beloved species in America, with similar physical features and overlapping habitat ranges. However, there are many distinct features that you can use to tell whether or not your dark and orange backyard critters are an oriole or a robin. The easiest way to know is through their appearance, and we recommend you re-read anything above to help you if you’re unsure.
Featured Image Credit: (L) jasongillman, Pixabay | (R) DavidReed, Pixabay
Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.
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