Oriole, the name of a subfamily of denti-rostral birds of the thrush family, characterized by a bill as long as the head, broad at the base, compressed on the sides, with elevated and curved culmen and notched tip; wings long, with the first three quills equally graduated, and the third and fourth the longest; tarsi short and strongly scaled; toes moderate, the lateral ones usually unequal. In the typical genus oriolus (Linn.), besides the above characters, the tail is moderate and rounded, and the claws long, strong, and curved. These orioles are migratory, scattered over various parts of the old world; they are usually found singly or in pairs, sometimes in small flocks, on the edges of woods and in fields and orchards, feeding on fruits and insects, flying in an undulating manner from tree to tree; their notes are loud, but mellow and somewhat plaintive; the plumage is generally brilliant yellow, more or less interrupted by deep black markings; the form is stout, and the power of flight considerable; some of them display great ingenuity in the construction of their nests.
The European golden oriole (0. galbula, Linn.) has the body clear brilliant yellow, the wings and space between the bill and eye deep black; the quills are edged and tipped with yellowish white, which sometimes extends to the tips of the secondaries; a triangular spot of yellow on the closed wing; two central tail feathers black, the lateral ones with yellow tips increasing to the outside; the female is yellowish green above, shading below into yellowish and pure white, the wings brownish black with an ashy tinge; it is about as large as the blackbird, 9½ in. long. This species is found abundantly in S. Europe, Asia, and N. Africa, and some wander as far north as Great Britain and Sweden. The nest is skilfully made, of the ordinary round shape (according to Yarrell), and placed in the horizontal cleft of a branch, each side of which is included in the substance of the nest; the eggs, four to six, are clear white, with brownish black spots most numerous on the larger end; the parents defend their nests with great courage. Though possessing small powers of song, their beauty makes them in request as cage birds; but they are difficult to raise, and rarely live more than two years in captivity.
In the districts where they feed on figs the flesh becomes very fat, and is considered excellent eating; they are very shy. The African golden oriole (0. auratus, Vieill.) is about as large as the preceding species, which it much resembles; but the black stripe on the side of the head extends behind the eye, and there is much less black on the wings; the bill is red; it migrates southerly from equatorial Africa. More than 20 other species are described in Africa, Asia, and the Indian archipelago. - In the genus zphecotheres (Vieill.) of Australia, the bill is shorter, stouter, and more curved, and the tail long and even; the species are few, frequenting the tops of lofty trees, feeding on fruits and insects. In the genus sericulus (Swains.), also Australian, the bill is longer and more slender, and the wings and tail moderate; these birds live in the large bushes, feeding principally upon figs. - The name oriole is erroneously given to many coni-rostral birds of the starling family, especially the subfamily icterinoe or hang-nests of North and South America. (See Baltimore Bird).
European Golden Oriole (Oriolus galbula).