Male. Note: black breast and back and bright yellow belly.
  • Male
  • Male. Note: black breast and back and bright yellow belly.
  • Female
  • Juvenile female

Hover over to view. Click to enlarge.

Scott's Oriole

Icterus parisorum
Members of this diverse group make up more than half of the bird species worldwide. Most are small. However their brains are relatively large and their learning abilities are greater than those of most other birds. Passerine birds are divided into two suborders, the suboscines and the oscines. Oscines are capable of more complex song, and are considered the true songbirds. In Washington, the tyrant flycatchers are the only suboscines; the remaining 27 families are oscines.
This New World family of medium and large songbirds is very familiar, as most species are common inhabitants in human-altered settings. Many are partly to entirely black, often with iridescence or bright markings of some sort. Most blackbird species form flocks at certain times of the year, and many form multispecies flocks. Blackbirds live in open habitats and eat seeds, grain, and insects. They often forage in agricultural areas, where they can be considered pests. These birds generally forage on the ground where they are well adapted for a behavior called gaping. They insert their long, slender bills into the ground, and then open their bills to get at underground insects. Blackbirds also use this technique to get into fruits and some insects, and to reach insects that are cocooned inside wrapped leaves. Most build open-cup nests in trees, shrubs, or on the ground. Many members of this family are polygynous. Females generally build the nests and incubate the eggs, and males help feed the young.

    General Description

    The adult male Scott’s Oriole cannot be confused with any other bird likely to be seen in Washington. A large oriole—the size of a Bullock’s—it has a black head, back, and breast; vivid yellow underparts; a black wing with a yellow shoulder patch and white wingbar; and a black tail with a yellow base. The adult female resembles the male but with less extensive black. However, immature birds can be easily misidentified, especially when they occur in unexpected places. Grayish above and dirty yellow below, they look rather like certain plumages of the somewhat smaller Hooded Oriole. In Washington, any oriole that appears to be outside the norms for Bullock’s Oriole should be studied attentively. Consultation of a good field guide is advised.

    Scott’s Oriole is a bird of the deserts of the American Southwest and of northern and central Mexico. Breeding populations of the northern part of the range, including the United States, move south for the winter. Scott’s Oriole breeds locally in southeastern Idaho at the northern extremity of its breeding range. Otherwise it is an exceptionally rare vagrant in the Pacific Northwest. Oregon has two spring records. Washington’s lone record is of an adult male that frequented a feeder in Chehalis (Lewis County) from 11 February to 13 April 1980. There are no records from British Columbia.

    Revised November 2007

    North American Range Map

    North America map legend

    Federal Endangered Species ListAudubon/American Bird Conservancy Watch ListState Endangered Species ListAudubon Washington Vulnerable Birds List

    View full list of Washington State's Species of Special Concern