Male has a black head, chest, back, wings, and tail, with the remainder of the body being chestnut; female is olive above and olive-yellow below. 18 cm (7.25 in) in length. A sharp long bill is distinctive for the members of this family. The song is a group of loud whistled notes.
The breeding season begins in mid-May, peaks later that month, and extends to late June. Breeding habitat includes open areas with trees. The nest is usually in a tree 1-15 m (4-50 feet) above the ground. The nest hangs from a fork in a branch and is a long, bag-like, or pensile, structure woven out of grasses and lined with fine grass and plant down. The female lays 3-7 (usually 3-5) eggs that she incubates for approximately 12 days. The young are altricial and fledge 11-14 days after hatching. Both adults brood and feed the young while they are in the nest. After the young leave the nest, the parents split the brood and each adult takes care of half of their offspring. The young stay with the adults until the fall migration.
The Orchard Oriole frequents open country with scattered trees, old orchards, and groves. The diet consists of insects, fruit and nectar. The food is gathered off vegetation. This species is a long distance migrant.
The Orchard Oriole occurs in most of the eastern United States during the breeding season. In the Southeast during the breeding season, this species occurs throughout the region except for peninsular Florida. Some birds remain in Gulf Coast areas and southern Florida during the winter. The remainder of the birds winter from central Mexico to northern South America.
The Orchard Oriole is a common host of the Brown-headed Cowbird, often raising the cowbird young instead of or in addition to its own young. This species is common in appropriate habitat and is not listed as Threatened or Endangered in any portion of its southeastern range.
The species most similar to the Orchard Oriole is the Baltimore Oriole, previously named the Northern Oriole. The Baltimore Oriole male is distinctly different than the male Orchard Oriole, having bright orange where the Orchard has chestnut and showing bright orange patches on the outer tail feathers. The female Baltimore Oriole has a dark head, wings, and tail and dull orange over the remainder of her body.