Eurasian golden oriole (Oriolus oriolus)

Also known as: European golden oriole, golden oriole
French: Loriot d'Europe
GenusOriolus (1)
SizeLength: 20 - 30 cm (2)
Wingspan: 46 cm (3)
Weight68 g (3)

The Eurasian golden oriole is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

With its bright yellow plumage, the Eurasian golden oriole (Oriolus oriolus) is an incredibly striking bird (3). On the male Eurasian golden oriole, this beautiful golden colour contrasts starkly with the largely black wings and tail, and the black streak that extends through each red eye (2) (4). The female and the juvenile Eurasian golden oriole are somewhat duller than the male, with yellowish-green upperparts, dark olive-brown wings and brown-streaked underparts (4) (5) (6). The female can also be distinguished from the male by its slightly smaller size (2).

The Eurasian golden oriole’s sharp, stout bill is highly effective at plucking insects or berries from vegetation, as well as tearing flesh off small vertebrate prey. The positioning of its toes, with one pointing backward and three pointing forward, allows it to grip branches with ease (6).

Despite its bright plumage, the Eurasian golden oriole is often surprisingly well-hidden amongst dense foliage, but its distinctive, flute-like, whistling song often reveals its location (6). The Eurasian golden oriole also has a harsh ‘chr-r-r’ alarm call (5).

The Eurasian golden oriole breeds throughout Europe and parts of Asia. It migrates to parts of central Africa for winter, travelling as far south as Kenya and Tanzania (6).

During the breeding season, the Eurasian golden oriole inhabits deciduous forest and large parks, where dense foliage provides protection and there is an abundance of food for the adults and chicks (6). In the UK, the Eurasian golden oriole nests almost solely in black poplar trees (Populus nigra) (7). In its winter African range, the Eurasian golden oriole occurs in tall woodland, savanna and plantations (8).

The Eurasian golden oriole commences breeding in April, when it arrives at its breeding grounds. The female constructs an impressive hammock-like nest, which is woven from grasses, moss and lichens, and suspended from a fork in a tree (6). Into this deep nest the female lays three to four white eggs, speckled with black spots. The eggs are incubated for 14 to 15 days, by both adults. The chicks are fed insects by the male and female until they are able to fly at around 14 days of age (6).

The diet of the Eurasian golden oriole comprises mainly insects. It prefers caterpillars, but will also feed on small vertebrates, such as mice (6). Eurasian golden oriole chicks are fed a large number of bumblebees (7). In autumn, towards the end of the breeding season, a greater proportion of calorie-rich fruits and berries are eaten, which help the Eurasian golden oriole to build fat reserves in preparation for its long migration south (6).

In July, the Eurasian golden oriole starts its migration to the warmer climes of Africa (6). This species can live for up to ten years (3).

Although the common and widespread Eurasian golden oriole is not currently considered to be an endangered species (9), it is classified in the ‘Red’ category of conservation importance in the UK (3), meaning urgent conservation action is required (10). In recent decades, the Eurasian golden oriole bred primarily in poplar plantations in East Anglia in the UK, but as the market for this timber declined, many of the larger poplar plantations were replanted. The removal of this suitable nesting habitat is likely to be the reason behind the Eurasian golden oriole’s decline in the UK (11).

As the global population of the Eurasian golden oriole appears to be stable (9), there are currently no specific conservation measures in place. In the UK, where the number of breeding orioles has declined (11), it has been recommended that conservation efforts should focus on creating more areas of poplar woodland, in which this eye-catching bird can nest (7).

Find out more about the Eurasian golden oriole:

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  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2010)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Christie, D. (2008) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 13: Penduline-tits to Shrikes. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. Robinson, R.A. (2005) BirdFacts: Profiles of Birds Occurring in Britain and Ireland. BTO Research Report 407, BTO, Thetford. Available at:
  4. Shrestha, T.K. (2001) Birds of Nepal: Field Ecology, Natural History and Conservation. Bimala Shrestha, Kathmandu, Nepal.
  5. Peterson, R.T., Mountfort, G. and Hollom, P.A.D. (1993) Collins Field Guide: Birds of Britain and Europe. HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, London.
  6. Likoff, L.E. (2007) The Encyclopedia of Birds. International Masters Publishing, New York.
  7. Milwright, R.D.P. (1998) Breeding biology of the golden oriole Oriolus oriolus in the fenland basin of eastern Britain. Bird Study, 45(3): 320-330.
  8. Sinclair, I., Hockey, P., Hayman, P. and Arlott, N. (2005) The Larger Illustrated Guide to Birds of Southern Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
  9. BirdLife International (November, 2010)
  10. RSPB (November, 2010)
  11. Holling, M. and the Rare Birds Breeding Panel (2007) Rare breeding birds in the United Kingdom in 2003 and 2004. British Birds, 100: 321-367.