Golden Oriole Classification and Evolution
The Golden Oriole (also known as the Eurasian Oriole), is a small species of Bird found throughout Europe and western Asia. The Golden Oriole's name is thought to have arisen during the 18th century after the classical Latin word meaning gold. Although almost indistinguishable in appearance, some believe that the Golden Orioles found in Europe, are actually a separate sub-species to those found in Asia. They are also known to be the only member of the Oriole family that breeds in the more temperate regions of the northern hemisphere.
Golden Oriole Anatomy and Appearance
The male Golden Oriole is an incredibly coloured Bird, with striking yellow and jet black plumage, and fully black wings. As with many other Birds, the female of the species is more dull-looking being slightly greener in colour. Both however, are hard to spot in the canopy as they are perfectly camouflaged amongst the leaves. Golden Orioles tend to be between 20 - 24 cm in height and are often mistaken for Thrushes and even green Woodpeckers when in flight. They have dark red eyes, and a fairly thick, pink beak that is curved slightly downwards at the end.
Golden Oriole Distribution and Habitat
The Golden Oriole is predominantly found throughout Europe and western Asia but also in parts of Africa. The Golden Oriole is a summer migrant meaning that it migrates north for the cooler summer climates, and flies back south to the tropics when the winter begins to emerge. The Golden Oriole is nearly always found in well-timbered forests and woodland, along with parks, orchards and gardens. They spend the majority of their time high in the tree canopy where their distinctive plumage helps them to remain hidden from lurking predators.
Golden Oriole Behaviour and Lifestyle
Due to it's excellent camouflage amongst the leaves, and it's shy nature, the Golden Oriole is an almost impossible Bird to spot. However, it is it's unmistakable song that alerts all around to it's presence, which is said to sound very fluty and can be heard over considerable distances. Their basic calls however are often compared to the screech of a Jay, but both are used to communicate with other Golden Orioles inhabiting the surrounding forest. The Golden Oriole is a migratory and generally quite solitary Bird, but can be seen migrating, often under the cover of night, in large flocks.
Golden Oriole Reproduction and Life Cycles
The Golden Oriole breeds in the more temperate northern regions during the summer months, where courtship displays involve them chasing one another from tree to tree and through the canopy. The female Golden Oriole builds her nest, generally in the fork of a tree out of plant fibres and stems, in the shape of a shallow cup. She lays between 3 and 6 eggs which hatch after an incubation period of between 15 and 18 days, that is predominantly conducted by the female. Once hatched, both Golden Oriole parents help to feed and look after their young, which will have left their nest (fledged) within 20 days. Golden Orioles usually live to be around 9 or 10 years old.
Golden Oriole Diet and Prey
The Golden Oriole is an omnivorous animal that primarily feeds on insects, fruits and seeds high up in the tree canopy. The relatively thick, slightly curved beak of the Golden Oriole is the perfect shape for picking Insects out of holes and plucking fruits off the branches. The Golden Oriole also has wide, clawed feet which assist the Bird in holding onto the more tricky branches when it is trying to gather food. They also play a vital role in re-distributing the seeds from the fruits, throughout their native eco-systems.
Golden Oriole Predators and Threats
Despite their shy disposition, the Golden Oriole can become incredibly aggressive towards any animal that tries to go near it's nest, swooping and diving at the invader to try and intimidate it. Due to it's tree-top lifestyle, the Golden Oriole is safe from numerous predators lower down the trees, but it is still vulnerable to larger Birds such as Crows, and Birds Of Prey including Eagles, Hawks and Raptors. They are also threatened by deforestation and therefore habitat destruction in their native environments.
Golden Oriole Interesting Facts and Features
The people living in the northern parts of Europe, are known to be able to predict the start of spring with the coming of the Golden Oriole. The Golden Orioles inhabiting more western European regions, are known to migrate as far south as Namibia and South Africa when the winter begins to set in. Despite that the Golden Oriole was thought to have been properly named in the 18th century, it is thought that the Romans could have been calling them Orioles as early as the 12th century.
Golden Oriole Relationship with Humans
The Golden Oriole is an incredibly shy Bird and very hard to spot high up in the canopy. Without the use of binoculars, the greener females particularly, are commonly mistaken for Green Woodpeckers, although their flight after a time is noticeably different. Humans have however, always been awe-struck by their beautifully distinctive, floaty song. The biggest impact that Humans have on the Golden Oriole is the deforestation of their native forests, meaning that their range is quite rapidly decreasing in size as they are losing more and more of their natural habitat.
Golden Oriole Conservation Status and Life Today
The Golden Oriole has been listed as being an animal that is of Least Concern of imminent extinction in the wild, as even though their territories are shrinking, populations generally seem to be stable. The Golden Orioles found across Asia are known to be decreasing slightly in number, but it is thought that those found in Europe, actually seem to be on the rise.