Birds are some of the most brilliantly colored members of the animal kingdom, and they can be found in all colors of the rainbow. Orange birds are found worldwide in many different bird families, from familiar orioles, hummingbirds, and parrots to thrushes, kingfishers, doves, penguins, and many exotic species around the globe.
How Birds Get to Be Orange
How birds get orange plumage varies between species. For most birds, the orange appearance is a result of carotenoid pigments in their diet, as well as how their metabolism processes those pigments to grow feathers. The structure of a bird's feathers can also affect the overall color and orange hue, as can how fresh or properly preened the feathers may be. Worn plumage may lose color, and the bird's posture can affect how light reflects off individual feathers, changing the appearance of different colors. Some bird species have geographic differences in color between different populations, and male and female birds may show different degrees or intensities of color.
From classic fruit-like orange shades to darker burnt orange or somber shades and even to bright fluorescent hues, birds can be many shades of orange. The gallery below contains some of the most orange birds in the world; how many have you seen?
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Found in the eastern and central United States and Canada in summer and migrating to Florida, the Caribbean, Mexico, and South America in winter, the Baltimore oriole (Icterus galbula) is one of the most widespread and familiar orange birds. Named because the black and orange bird resembled the coat-of-arms colors on the crest of Lord Baltimore, the first proprietary governor of the Province of Maryland, this bird is still honored as Maryland's official state bird.
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The western counterpart to the Baltimore oriole, the Bullock's oriole (Icterus bullockii) has much more orange on its face than its eastern cousin. These two birds are so similar, however, that they were lumped together as one species from 1973 to 1995. Where their ranges overlap, the two species may hybridize with one another causing some identification confusion. Today, the Bullock's oriole is found throughout the western United States in the summer and spends its winters in Mexico.
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Familiar because of pet breeding and its popularity as a cage bird, the sun conure (Aratinga solstitialis) is naturally found only in a small range in northeastern South America. The orange of its plumage is found mostly on the face, but an orange wash also extends onto the breast and abdomen, though the extent of that orange coloration can vary greatly. Unfortunately, these curious and intelligent birds are considered endangered and poaching is a serious threat to their remaining population.
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Many warblers have a touch of orange in their plumage, but the male Blackburnian warbler (Setophaga fusca) has an orange throat that is one of the most brilliant. During the summer, these colorful warblers are found in the northeastern United States and southern Canada, and in winter they migrate to northern South America as far as the northern regions of the Andes Mountains. These are generally solitary birds, but may be found in some small mixed flocks during migration.Continue to 5 of 17 below.
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One of the most aggressive hummingbirds, the fiery orange plumage of the rufous hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) is easily recognized, either from its orange body or its glowing orange throat. These hummingbirds are found in western North America as far north as the Pacific Northwest and even Alaska during the summer but migrate to central Mexico in the winter. Compared to their body length, this is one of the longest migrations of any bird in the world.
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A type of cotinga, the Guianan cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola rupicola) is a brilliantly orange bird whose bright color stands out magnificently on the muted jungle floors where males visit leks to attract females for courtship. Females are more dully colored to blend in with the rocks and boulders where they nest. These frugivorous birds are found in northern South America, stretching from French Guiana and Suriname to Guyana, Venezuela, Colombia, and northern Brazil.
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The small but bright flame robin (Petroica phoenicea) has a stunning reddish-orange breast and abdomen that can seem to glow in bright sunlight, though females are much more dully colored. Found in southeastern Australia and on the island of Tasmania, they are territorial birds that are typically found in pairs but may form small flocks in winter. Along with their stunning color, their insectivorous diets and musical trilling songs make them welcome yard birds.
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The colorful Eurasian bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) is found throughout Europe and Asia, including Japan, and while they stay in much of their region year-round, northern populations may migrate seasonally. The male's peachy orange breast can vary in hue and intensity in different areas, and there are nine different subspecies noted throughout this bird's range. Females have much duller coloration to serve as better camouflage when nesting. These are shy, quiet birds that are typically solitary.Continue to 9 of 17 below.
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These boldly colored kingfishers have a muddy orange color that deepens to a purplish hue on the rump and base of the tail, and their bill, legs, and feet are bright orange-red. These bright colors help the ruddy kingfisher (Halcyon coromanda) stand out well in the forests of Asia, where they're found from South Korea to the Philippines, including Borneo, China, and west to eastern India. These are migratory birds, and like many bright orange birds, the females typically have more muted plumage colors.
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The Venezuelan troupial (Icterus icterus) looks remarkably like the Baltimore oriole, but the bare patch of blue-gray skin around its eye sets the troupial apart from its more familiar cousin. This bird is found in South America and on larger islands of the southern Caribbean, including Aruba, Curacao, Grenada, and Dominica. It is monogamous and territorial, and as the national bird of Venezuela, is vigorously protected and honored. Unfortunately, some pet trade poaching still occurs.
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The white-browed robin-chat (Cossypha heuglini) is an active bird found in forests, thickets, and gardens of eastern and central Africa south of the Sahara Desert, though it is missing from the southwestern part of the continent. Its dark orange underparts are distinctive, and the rump also has the same dull orange color. A type of flycatcher, the white-browed robin-chat is a primarily insectivorous bird, though it will eat some fruit occasionally. These are melodious birds that are often welcome in yards and gardens.
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The orchard oriole (Icterus spurious) is the smallest oriole found in North America and has the darkest orange coloration with a deep burnt orange hue. Found in the eastern and central United States as far west as Texas and Mexico, this bird migrates to Central America and northern South America in the winter. It is an easygoing, amiable species, and can often be found in mixed flocks with northern mockingbirds, American robins, and other oriole species.Continue to 13 of 17 below.
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One of the most brilliantly colored doves in the world, the orange fruit-dove (Chrysoena victor or Ptilinopus victor) is also called the flame dove because of its bright body. The olive-green head is much duller than the rest of this bird's orange plumage, and as its name suggests, it eats mostly fruit. Found only on a few small islands of Fiji, this dove has an extremely limited range, but is relatively common within that range and is not considered threatened or endangered.
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A year-round resident of the Pacific Northwest, the varied thrush (Ixoreus naevius) expands its summer range further north in western Canada, even as far north as Alaska. In winter, they are found further south in California. These are stocky birds that are more terrestrial than many thrushes, often skulking in thickets on the ground as they forage. They can be aggressive toward smaller birds. There are four noted subspecies of varied thrush based on geography and slight size and plumage variations.
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Penguins are known for their black and white plumage, but the king penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus) also has colorful splashes of orange on its cheeks and upper breast, as well as an orange grin patch on the bill. This is one of the largest penguin species, second only to the emperor penguin. King penguins are found on subantarctic islands, including the Falkland Islands and along Tierra del Fuego. These birds can dive up to 1,000 feet deep, and on land, they waddle and toboggan to get around.
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Not all birds show off their orange plumage easily. The kea (Nestor notabilis) is a large parrot found only on South Island of New Zealand, and its orange is hidden in a bright patch under the wing. Some muted orange color can also be seen on the rump. These are curious and intelligent birds, though their omnivorous appetites get them in trouble when they raid mountaineering camps and pick rubber bits off cars. These birds are also found in captivity in zoos and aviaries around the world.Continue to 17 of 17 below.
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Sometimes a bird that isn't normally orange will still show orange feathers due to a genetic mutation. These color morphs are rare but can occur in many birds with red or orange feathers, including the scarlet tanager (Piranga olivacea), house finch (Carpodacus mexicanus), or Cassin's finch (Carpodacus cassinii). The scarlet tanager is typically red and black and is found in the eastern and central United States and southern Canada in the summer. This bird migrates to northern South America including Peru and Bolivia in the winter.