Maryland State Bird - Baltimore Oriole

[photo, Baltimore oriole in full breeding plumage] The Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula) is the official Maryland bird (Chapter 54, Acts of 1947; Code General Provisions Article, sec. 7-301).

Baltimore Oriole in full breeding plumage. Photo by Chandler S. (Chan) Robbins, Senior Ornithologist, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.

The female oriole's feathers are brownish-olive and dull orange, but the male's plumage is black and golden orange not unlike colors in the Calvert shield. This similarity led to its early association with the name of the Maryland proprietor. In 1698, "Baltemore Birds" were among the "Beasts of Curiosity" ordered sent from Maryland to grace the royal gardens (Archives of Maryland 23: 455-56). In 1894, Baltimore's major league baseball team was named after the bird.

Maryland made special provisions to protect the Baltimore Oriole in 1882 (Chapter 154, Acts of 1882). Since passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, the Baltimore Oriole is protected by federal law covering all migratory bird species, and, since 1975, by the State's Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act (Chapter 27, Acts of 1975).

Despite its special status, since 1966 (and more rapidly after 1980) the number of Baltimore Orioles has been declining. The loss is attributed to destruction of breeding habitat and tropical winter habitat, and toxic pesticides ingested by the insects which constitute the Oriole's main diet.

In the late 1930s, Hoagy Carmichael composed the song, "Baltimore Oriole," lyrics by Paul Francis Webster.

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