The forests and fields of Ohio host a dazzling diversity of birdlife, including some stunningly colorful orange feathered residents. When spring migration kicks into high gear, a parade of brilliant orange birds arrive to breed, nest, and pass the fleeting summer days in the Buckeye State. Blazing like living tongues of flame in the trees, male Scarlet Tanagers and Baltimore Orioles catch the eye with their vivid orange, red and black plumage. The flashes of pumpkins and marigolds from American Goldfinches and Red-winged Blackbirds also grab your attention. Let’s explore 8 of the most spectacular orange birds found in Ohio and learn about their unique traits and behaviors that brighten our landscapes.
|Bird Name||Description||Interesting Fact|
|Baltimore Oriole||Bright orange and black medium-sized songbird that migrates through Ohio.||Males arrive before females in spring to defend breeding territories.|
|American Goldfinch||Small finch with bright golden yellow and orange males in summer.||Nest late in summer when thistle down is available.|
|Scarlet Tanager||Males are brilliant red with black wings/tail, females are yellow.||Requires large tracts of mature forest for breeding.|
|Red-bellied Woodpecker||Black and white barred back, red cap and males have pink-red belly.||Important primary cavity nesters for other bird species.|
|Red-winged Blackbird||Males black with red and orange shoulder patches called epaulets.||Highly polygamous, with males defending territories with multiple female nests.|
|Northern Flicker||Brown woodpecker with black speckling and orange underwings.||Feeds on ground for ants; nests in holes in ground.|
|Cedar Waxwing||Sleek brown bird with small bright orange/yellow patches on wings.||Eats berries whole and can become intoxicated on overripe fruit.|
|Orange Variants||Unusual orange morphs that occur in common Ohio species.||Caused by genetic mutations producing excess orange/red carotenoids.|
Table of Contents
- 1. Baltimore Oriole
- 2. American Goldfinch
- 3. Scarlet Tanager
- 4. Red-bellied Woodpecker
- 5. Red-winged Blackbird
- 6. Northern Flicker
- 7. Cedar Waxwing
- 8. Orange Variants of Common Ohio Birds
1. Baltimore Oriole
The Baltimore Oriole is one of the most brightly colored orange birds found in Ohio. With its bright orange plumage, black head, wings and tail, along with white wing bars, this medium-sized songbird is hard to miss.
Baltimore Orioles migrate through Ohio each spring and fall as they travel between their wintering grounds in Central America and summer breeding territories in northern states and Canada. The males arrive first in spring, displaying their brilliant orange plumage which looks like a flame against the greening trees.
These sociable birds forage high in leafy deciduous trees, sometimes hanging upside down as they probe for caterpillars, bees, beetles, fruit and nectar. They are frequent visitors to hummingbird feeders and orange halves placed out by birdwatchers.
Orioles construct intricate hanging pendulous nests at the end of branches, weaving plant fibers into a pouch and lining it with softer materials. The female builds the nest while the male guards his territory.
Listen for the melodic fluty song of the Baltimore Oriole in spring and summer. It is a series of paired notes, repeated in couplets or triplets. The male sings to declare his territory and attract a mate.
In the fall, orioles gather together in small flocks before migrating south. This is when birdwatchers have the best chance to spot these bright orange and black beauties stocking up on insects, nectar and fruits.
With its vibrant plumage and energetic song, the Baltimore Oriole brings a welcome spark of color and vitality to backyards and woodlands as it passes through Ohio on its epic seasonal travels.
2. American Goldfinch
With its bright yellow and orange plumage, the American Goldfinch is a stunning splash of color in the avian world. This small finch species is one of the most abundant and frequently observed orange birds in Ohio.
Goldfinches undergo a dramatic seasonal color change. In spring and summer, the males sport brilliant golden yellow feathers with black wings, tail and cap. Their faces are decorated with a wide orange band. Females have a more subtle washed-out version of this coloring.
In winter, both sexes molt into a dull brownish-olive color which camouflages them in the bare trees and fading grasses. Their bright breeding plumage will return in spring.
Goldfinches are social birds, flocking together in large numbers to feed on seeds and grains. Their bouncy flight pattern and lively calls make them easy to detect. You can often find them clinging acrobatically to thistles and teasel as they extract the nutritious seeds.
These birds are late nesters, waiting until mid-summer when thistle down is available to line their finely-woven cup nests. Unlike most other songbirds, they remain in flocks while breeding.
Listen for the distinctive roller-coaster call of the American Goldfinch. Its rising and falling melody is often transcribed as per-CHICK-o-ree. Goldfinches also have a sweet twittering song.
The American Goldfinch enlivens gardens, fields and feeders with its glowing colors and active nature. Watch for these orange and yellow beauties adding a splash of sunshine to the Ohio landscape.
3. Scarlet Tanager
Flashing through Ohio’s mature forests like a living flame, the Scarlet Tanager is an iconic brightly colored orange bird of the treetops. Adult males are unmistakable with crimson red bodies contrasted with jet black wings and tail. Females are olive above and pale yellow below with darker wings.
As Neotropical migrants, Scarlet Tanagers winter in South America but migrate north each spring to breed in mature broadleaf forests across Eastern North America. They arrive in Ohio in May to set up breeding territories where mature oaks or beeches dominate.
This striking songbird forages inconspicuously, blending into the high canopy as it seeks insects like wasps, bees, moths, flies and beetles. But its presence is given away by its hoarse, crow-like call, sounding like “chick-burrr.”
The female Scarlet Tanager builds a compact cup nest on a horizontal tree branch, using grass, leaves, roots and bark strips. She incubates the pale blue-green eggs for two weeks while the male brings food.
In late summer, Scarlet Tanagers gather to migrate back to South America in small loose flocks. These brief gatherings may provide the best opportunity to catch a glimpse of the male’s brilliant plumage.
Scarlet Tanagers require large forested tracts for breeding. Conservation of mature woodlands is crucial to preserve habitat for these forest gems. Place a pair of nest boxes along woodland trails to help provide suitable nesting sites.
With its flame-like brilliance, the Scarlet Tanager brings a spark of the tropics when it graces the forests of Ohio each spring and summer.
4. Red-bellied Woodpecker
Though not as brightly hued as other orange birds, the Red-bellied Woodpecker is a fairly common sight in Ohio’s woodlands and suburban areas. The name is slightly misleading, as only the male has the distinctive red patch on the belly an identification clue.
These nine-inch long woodpeckers have black and white barred upperparts with a red nape at the back of the neck. The male’s belly is pale salmon-pink, while the female’s is a pale beige. Both sexes have a red cap going from the beak up over the head.
Red-bellied Woodpeckers drum on trees and other wooden objects to establish territories and attract mates. They nest in tree cavities, staking claim to a territory for life. Listen for their rolling chuckle-like call and short staccato bursts of drumming.
These birds forage on trunks and branches for insects, spiders, fruits and nuts. They visit feeders for suet, peanuts and sunflower seeds. Red-bellies are less shy than other woodpeckers and fairly tolerant of human disturbance.
Though Red-bellied Woodpeckers excavate nesting holes, they rarely use the cavity again after breeding season. This makes them important primary cavity nesters, providing nesting sites for secondary cavity nesters like chickadees, nuthatches and wood ducks.
With its zebra-striped back, bright red head, and rosy belly patch on the males, the Red-bellied Woodpecker adds a splash of color to Ohio’s woodlots. Listen and watch for these charismatic birds on your next wooded hike.
5. Red-winged Blackbird
A familiar sight across Ohio fields, marshes and roadsides, the Red-winged Blackbird is a ubiquitous bird with a splash of orange on its wings. Males are all black with vivid red and orange shoulder patches called epaulets. Females are dark brown streaked birds.
Red-wings are highly polygamous, with males defending territories full of several female nests. They are very vocal birds, with males frequently calling their name “conk-a-ree” to advertise territories and attract females.
Nests are cups of grasses and sedges woven together and lashed to cattails, reeds or branches of shrubs near wetlands. Several broods may be raised per summer. These birds forage on seeds, grains and insects.
In winter, Red-wings gather in enormous mixed flocks with other blackbird species, grackles and starlings. They descend on fields and grain storage areas, causing headaches for farmers.
Watch for the orange flash on the wings of males as they chase each other on aerial pursuits or drop onto cattail perches. With common wetland habitats dwindling, Red-winged Blackbirds have adapted readily to roadside ditches, meadows and agricultural fields.
Listen for the conk-a-ree song and watch for the orange-red epaulets to identify this familiar marshland bird. Plant native wetland species and minimally mow field edges to provide habitat for Red-wings.
6. Northern Flicker
The Northern Flicker is Ohio’s only representative of the woodpecker family to regularly feed on the ground. These robin-sized birds have brown barred upperparts, a tan underside and black speckling and bars on the breast. A black crescent adorns the chest.
Males have a distinct red patch on the nape while females have a black nape. Both sexes have bright orange underwings and tail that are visible in flight or as they hop along the ground.
Northern Flickers probe the soil for ants and beetles, their primary diet. They also feed on seeds and berries. Unlike other woodpeckers, they prefer to nest in holes on the ground rather than in trees.
Listen for the loud, bouncing calls of these birds. A ringing “kyeer” advertises territory while a fast “wik-wik-wik” signals alarm. The drumming of males is slower and softer than other woodpeckers.
Watch for flickers perched horizontally on the sides of trees, unlike most woodpeckers that cling vertically. Their unique feeding and nesting habits separate them from other woodpecker species.
With its earthy hues punctuated by bright orange and red, the Northern Flicker stands apart from its tree-drilling kin. Attract these ground-foraging woodpeckers by scattering millet or sunflower seeds on the soil.
7. Cedar Waxwing
With a sleek crest and black mask accentuating its soft brown plumage, the Cedar Waxwing is a refined-looking songbird blessed with silky feathers. These roaming birds pass through Ohio in flocks, frequenting fruit trees as they forage.
Small patches of bright yellow and reddish-orange emerge on the wings during breeding season. Otherwise waxwings are subdued brown above and pale grey below, with a lemon yellow belly and undertail.
Waxwings derive their name from red waxy tips on the secondary feathers of adult wings. Flocks keep up a constant very high-pitched trilling contact call as they swoop acrobatically from tree to tree.
Primarily fruit eaters, waxwings devour berries whole and can become intoxicated when gorging on overripe fruit. They also sally out from perches to catch flying insects.
Nests are exceptionally late, delayed until June or July. Both parents share incubation and chick rearing. Fledged young stay with parents for an extended time as they learn to forage on fruits.
Though wintry grey birds, the subtle orange and yellow hues of Cedar Waxwings hint at the ecstasy of summer fruit they know lies ahead. Consider planting fruiting trees and shrubs to provide natural food sources that these sleek nomads seek.
8. Orange Variants of Common Ohio Birds
Though not separate species, unusual orange color variants occur in several common Ohio bird species. These anomalous plumages result from genetic mutations causing excess carotenoids, the pigments that produce orange, red and yellow feathers.
Some orange variant species to watch for in Ohio include:
– Orange Eastern Bluebird – Brilliant orange males occur periodically, lacking the usual blue hue. Still distinctly patterned with the rusty breast band.
– Orange Northern Cardinal – Vivid orange males and females occasionally appear where normal birds would be red. Watch for them at feeders.
– Orange Dark-eyed Junco – A flame-orange version of the snowy dark-eyed junco sometimes shows up in winter flocks.
– Orange American Goldfinch – More intense, reddish-orange males are seen, contrasting with the normal lemon yellows.
– Orange Red-tailed Hawk – While normal red-tails have a reddish tail, some shine a deep orangey-red from head to tail.
– Orange Eastern Screech Owl – A bright orange morph of this small owl nests in tree cavities in some Ohio woodlands.
Keep an eye out for these unusual flights of fancy by Mother Nature. While normal orange Ohio birds dazzle the eyes, the orange birds of anomaly are truly special to witness in all their odd glory.
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