|Hooded orioles visit a feeder in Mission Viejo last summer. Photo by Ken Carrier|
Hooded and Bullock's orioles are the two most common species of orioles that breed in Southern California. Both are medium-size songbirds, about 8-inches long with slender bodies, long tail and a long, slightly curved beak. They belong to the same family as blackbirds, grackles and cowbirds.
Orioles are coveted among backyard birders mostly because of their bright colors. Adult males tend to be bright yellow or orange over most of their body with black wings and white wingbars. Females are less colorful with mostly dull yellow bodies and gray wings. Male hooded orioles have a distinctive black face and throat with a hood of orange or yellow-orange while the Bullock's species can be differentiated by a black cap and eyeline.
The Bullock's oriole was formerly considered the same species as the Baltimore oriole, which is found on the East Coast. And some interbreeding between the two species has occurred in the Great Plains. Hooded orioles are often spotted along the California coast because fan palms are a favorite nesting site.