|Orchard oriole photo by Warren Hamlin|
Not all blackbirds are black birds.
Orioles are closely related to grackles and other blackbirds. All are in the bird family Icteridae. What really sets the orioles apart are the bright colors. In North America, ten bird species bear the name. All are very striking in color: black and white with orange or yellow, or yellowish orange.
Only two species are found in Tennessee. The more famous is the Baltimore oriole, known for a time as the northern oriole. They are black and bright orange, we’re talking explosive, knock your socks off orange, like UT's Neyland Stadium on game day. Many believe they are this country’s most beautiful birds. They are common during migration season but are considered uncommon summer residents, primarily nesting north of the Volunteer State. Above the Mason-Dixon Line, they are routinely seen at backyard feeders this time of the year.
Warren Hamlin sent me the above photo. His wife Tiffiny "spotted this orchard oriole along Melton Lake Drive."
The black and Texas Longhorn burnt orange orchard oriole is considered a fairly common albeit declining summer resident in Tennessee, but as the name implies, they tend to nest in open country with pastures, farms and orchards. Rural Tennesseans, especially in the middle and western parts of the state, see them more often than we do in the Tennessee Valley.