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The Baltimore Oriole, a member of the ictaridae family of birds, is the official state bird of Maryland. Male Baltimore Orioles are bright golden-orange on their undersides and shoulders, and have black wings and a black head. The females are not as brightly colored with their yellowish-orange under-parts and duller black wings and head. They measure about 7 to 8.5 inches (17.78-20.32 centimeters) long.
The state bird of Maryland received its name from George Calvert, Lord Baltimore. The 17th century nobleman’s coat of arms used the same colors as the oriole. The Bullock Oriole, which lives west of the Rocky Mountains, is similar to the Baltimore Oriole and the two birds interbreed in the Central Plains. This led the American Ornithologists Union to rename both birds Northern Orioles as they continue to research the relationship between the two birds.
Baltimore Orioles typically live in wooded areas with deciduous trees. Their diet mainly consists of insects, and they eat fruits or berries as a supplement. They have a voracious appetite for caterpillars, which may help protect the forests from the destructive insects. Those hoping to lure the bird to feeders should use oranges, nectars, or peanut butter.
The mating season of the state bird of Maryland begins in late April to early May, when the birds return to the state. Baltimore Orioles only live in the state during the summer months, migrating to warmer climates in the winter. The males arrive several days before the females and claim their territories. Once the females arrive, they males begin singing almost constantly until they mate. Typically, only unmated and immature birds sing later in the season.
After mating, the male defends his territory and the female builds a tightly woven hanging next using plant fibers. The nest is suspended from a branch up to 90 feet (27.43 meters) above the ground. The female lays between three and six pale blue with dark marks eggs, which hatch about two weeks later. The baby birds live in the nest for only 12 to 14 days before leaving.
The Baltimore Oriole became the official state bird of Maryland in 1947, but its popularity extends back to as early as 1698, when the bird was including in the “beasts of curiosity” that were sent from Maryland to the royal gardens in England. In 1882, Maryland made special provisions to protect the bird, and in 1918, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act put the Baltimore Oriole under federal protection. Baltimore’s major league baseball teamed named themselves after the bird in 1882, over half a century before it became the official state bird of Maryland.