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Number of species: 79

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Baltimore Oriole - Icterus galbula

Baltimore Oriole has a partial preformative molt, and a prealternate molt that is limited to incomplete in the first cycle (FCA/SY) but only absent-limited in subsequent cycles (DCU/ASY). Sexes appear similar during FCJ and FCF, but are generally easy to distinguish by plumage when older. However, note that there can be extensive variability in appearance among individuals, especially DCU (ASY) females.

Quick tips

  • In spring, look at the greater coverts - on FCA (SY) birds there is generally a molt limit within the greater coverts, or less commonly between the greater coverts and primary coverts. The primaries and secondaries of FCA (SY) birds are also brown and often quite worn, with the inner secondaries contrasting distinctly with the replaced greater coverts.
  • Examine the rectrices - on FCF (HY) birds they are narrow and pointed, while on DCB/DCU (AHY/ASY) birds they are broader and more rounded; this feature is particularly useful in fall when wing contrasts (for females) are less obvious, and in spring when some FCA (SY) birds have a mix of juvenile rectrices (pointed, worn, and dull) and alternate rectrices (rounded, fresh, bright).
  • In fall, measure wing chord, which usually offers the only possibility of distinguishing sex among FCF (HY) birds, but beware that while guidelines for male (>91 mm) and female (<91 mm) are well established, there can be many exceptions, and it is better to exercise caution and buffer by at least 2 mm (i.e., male >93 mm, unknown 89-93 mm, and female <89 mm).
  • Consider overall appearance - DCB/DCU (AHY/ASY) males are black and orange, while FCA (SY) males are similar but with extensive brown on the wings; DCB/DCU (AHY/ASY) females are largely brown and orange, with the head variably orange to almost black; FCF (HY) birds and FCA (SY) females are generally grayish-brown and orange, with the head mostly orange.

Species account prepared by McGill Bird Observatory (2016). Last updated by Marcel Gahbauer (Mar 2022)

The molt categories displayed below may be filtered by month.

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Click on any image below to bring up the side-by-side comparison tool.

Individuals not in molt

FCJ - (HY: June - August)
Largely grayish above and dull yellow below, with buffy wing bars
No images available yet
FCF - (HY: July - December; SY January - April)
Rectrices narrow, pointed, and generally olive-tinged and dark; distinct contrast between pale outer greater coverts vs. darker replaced median coverts and often also inner greater coverts; sex often indistinguishable, but females may be particularly pale
M
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FCA - (SY: April - September)
Rectrices narrow, pointed, and generally olive-tinged and dark, or mixed with broader and brighter feathers, or all broad, rounded, and fresh; inner greater coverts often darker and fresher; faded brown secondaries contrasting with blackish replaced tertials; head dull orange (F) or mostly to entirely black (M)
M
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F
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DCB - (AHY: July - December; ASY January - April)
Rectrices relatively broad and rounded, either dusky (F) or boldly marked with orange and black (M); head mostly dull orange, sometimes with black flecks (F) or mostly to entirely black (M), primaries, secondaries, and primary coverts blackish
M
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F
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DCU - (ASY: April - September)
Rectrices relatively broad and rounded, either dusky (F) or boldly marked with orange and black (M); head mottled olive-orange, sometimes partly to mostly blackish (F) or entirely black (M), primaries, secondaries, and primary coverts blackish
M
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F
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Individuals in active molt

FPJ - (HY: June - August)
Similar to FCJ; some natal down remaining and/or juvenile flight feathers still growing in
No images available yet
FPF - (HY: July - September)
Similar to FCF; some median coverts and up to several inner greater coverts being replaced in addition to body feathers
F
Thumbnail - MG2-1891-89776-Icterus_galbula_AOU_7_52-3744.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1891-89776-Icterus_galbula_AOU_7_52-3742.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1891-89776-Icterus_galbula_AOU_7_52-3743.jpg
FPA - (SY: March - May)
Similar to FCA; up to all greater coverts, one or two tertials, and zero to all rectrices being replaced in addition to body feathers
No images available yet
SPB - (SY: July - September)
Flight feathers being replaced, with retained primaries, secondaries, and/or primary coverts distinctly juvenile (pale brown, very worn)
No images available yet
DPB - (AHY: July - September)
Flight feathers being replaced, with retained primaries, secondaries, and/or primary coverts either distinctly adult (generally grayish, less worn) or intermediate
No images available yet
DPA - (ASY: March - May)
Similar to DCA; mostly body feathers being replaced
No images available yet

Applicable unknown plumage/age classes

Molt classes Age Months Key traits
M-FPF / UPU (FPF, SPB, DPB) U July - September Undergoing preformative or prebasic molt, but cycle is not reliably distinguishable
M-FCF / UCU (FCF, SCB, DCB) U/AHY July - April In formative or basic plumage (molt completed), but cycle is not reliably distinguishable
M-FPA / UPA (FPA, DPA) AHY March - May Undergoing prealternate molt, but cycle is not reliably distinguishable
M-FCA / UCA (FCA, DCA) AHY April - September In alternate plumage (molt completed), but cycle is not reliably distinguishable

Number of species: 79

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