There are a total of 27 species of Orioles, the Eurasian Golden Oriole being the only one found in Europe (1). One of these is a species endemic to the Philippines, Isabella’s Oriole (Oriolus isabellae) it is listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ (1).
The male adult of the Golden Oriole has a stunning bright yellow plumage with black wings and a black tail (4) (3). The male also has a black eye-mask, which is lacking in the female and juvenile, which have duller, greenish-yellow upperparts (2). The bill is a bright pinkish-red. They measure approximately 24 cm in length and weigh approximately 65 g (3).
The calls are a fast, falcon-like “gigigi”, or a loud, harsh Jay-like “meeeaik” (2) (3). Song is reminiscent of the Black Bird’s (Turdus merula), a clear fluting whistle: “chook lee-klooeee” (4).
Golden Orioles spend most of their time high in the tree tops (4). Despite their bright plumage, they are rarely seen, being shy birds that remain concealed within foliage (2) (3). Their flight is fast and gently undulating through vegetation (3). As passage migrants, they may be seen singly or in small flocks of up to 10 birds, rarely of 30 birds or more (5).
Golden Orioles are aggressive and capable of defending their nests against most predators. They have been recorded as chasing a Hobby (Falco subbuteo) out of woodland for over a kilometer (5). Predators that are in groups of three or more are able to overwhelm the Orioles’ defenses, such as some species of the Crow family (5).
Golden Orioles breed in deciduous forest, in cultivated areas with clumps of deciduous trees, in large parks and often near lakes and rivers (3).
Golden Orioles breed in May and June (2). The female builds a shallow nest of woven grass and strips of bark, lined with finer materials (6). The nest is made between two twigs or a branched fork high in the tree (2) (6). There is a single clutch of three or four eggs, which are incubated by the female and occasionally by the male, for approximately two weeks (6). Both parents rear the young until become fledglings at the age of two weeks (6).
The Golden Oriole is widespread throughout Europe, the Arabian Peninsula, western Asia, and China (7). The global population is large, estimated between 20 million and 100 million individuals, over a range of 15.3 million km2 (7). Europe, which is less than half of the Golden Oriole’s breeding range, has a very large breeding population of over 3.4 million pairs (7). In Greece the breeding population is estimated between 20,000 and 30,000 pairs, and they are mostly located to the north and central mainland (7) (5).
In Greece Golden Orioles are most abundant during spring and autumn, as passage migrants (5). They winter in tropical Africa, migrating mainly to eastern Africa; a few populations migrate to a small and isolated area in extreme western Africa (8).
Golden Orioles fee on insects and berries. They take a wide variety of insects, which include bumble bees, spiders, beetles, moths and butterflies, such as the Peacock butterfly (Inachis io) (5).
IUCN Red List = Least Concern (1)
Description written by Maite Guignard (2009)
(1) IUCN (2008) IUCN Red List of Threatened Species [online] Available: http://www.iucnredlist.org [date accessed: 14/05/2009]
(2) Hume. R. (2002) RSPB Complete Birds of Britain and Europe, Dorling Kindersley, London
(3) Mullarney. K., Svensson. L., Zetterstrom. D., and Grant. P.J. (1999) Collins Bird Guide, Harper Collins Publishers, London
(4) Jonsson. L. (1992) Birds of Europe, Christopher Helm Ltd., London
(5) Milwright. R.D. (1998) Breeding biology of the Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus in the fenland basin of eastern Britain, Bird Study, 45: 320-330
(6) Perrins. C. (1987) Collins New Generation Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe, Collins, London
(7) Bird Life International (2009) Species factsheet: Oriolus oriolus [online] Available:
http://www.birdlife.org [date accessed: 26/05/2009]
(8) Moreau. R. E. (1952) The Place of Africa in the Palaearctic Migration System, The Journal of Animal Ecology, 21(2): 250-271