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Oriole Symbolism & Meaning (+Totem, Spirit & Omens)


Orioles are beloved songbirds found in many regions throughout the world. In Africa, Europe, Asia, and Australia, orioles are brightly colored songbirds which belong to the “Old World” Oriole family, Oriolidae. In the Americas, the birds which are known as Orioles, such as the ubiquitous Baltimore Oriole, are members of the Icteridae family which includes “New World” blackbirds as well as meadowlarks. Orioles from both families share a tendency to eat fruit and spend most of their time high on the tops of trees. Both groups of Orioles are also recognized for their bright orange or yellow plumage. New World Orioles are, in fact, named for their apparent similarity to Old World Orioles.

In much of the world, Orioles are recognized as brightly colored heralds of springtime and sunshine. In much of the United States, they are treasured backyard favorites which come to feed on ripe fruit trees and shrubs, their whistling song acting as the cheerful theme tune which signifies their presence.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the unique features of both Old World and New World Orioles. We will also explore some of the myths and folklore traditions which connect to these brightly colored birds. Read on to discover some of the many wonderful things that the Oriole has to offer!

Oriole in tree
Photo by Carrie Stary on Unsplash
On this page
Oriole Symbolism and Meaning
Oriole Native American Symbolism
Oriole Christianity Symbolism
Oriole Celtic Symbolism
Oriole in Dreams
Oriole Encounters and Omens
Oriole Mythology and Folklore
    Native American Mythology:
    Christian/Jewish Mythology:
    Egyptian Mythology:
    Japanese Mythology:
    Greek Mythology:
Oriole Spirit Animal
Oriole Totem Animal
Oriole Power Animal
Oriole Tattoo Meaning

Oriole Symbolism and Meaning

One of the strongest connections associated with the Oriole is with the city of Baltimore, Maryland. Many people without as much interest in birds might recognize the name of the Baltimore Oriole solely through its famous role as the mascot for Baltimore’s Major League Baseball team. The Baltimore Oriole is not actually named for the city of Baltimore. Instead, like the city of Baltimore, this birds is named for Cecilius Calvert, 2nd Lord Baltimore. Lord Baltimore was the first Proprietor of the Province of Maryland and the county in which the capitol city of Maryland is found, Anne Arundel County, is even named after his wife. Lord Baltimore’s brightly colored yellow and black family crest resembles the yellow and black plumage of the Baltimore Oriole. As such, the Baltimore Oriole was named in Lord Baltimore’s honor. The Baltimore Oriole remains deeply connected with both the city of Baltimore, which shares its namesake, and the state of Maryland on the whole. The Baltimore Oriole is Maryland’s state bird.

Because Orioles are “frugivores,” or fruit-eaters, they are often connected with the warm, fertile conditions under which fruits ripen. They are thought of, in much of the world, as springtime birds. Sometimes, Orioles are treated as pests because they will eat fruit crops, especially in orchards. This sells the Oriole short, though. While Oriole chicks are young, their parents often feed them an insect diet. The insects that Orioles eat can be harmful pests. In some settings, Orioles are an indispensable form of natural pest control. Unfortunately, they are also very vulnerable to the harmful effects of pesticides because of this. The Oriole may represent cooperation or symbiosis. They may also represent the importance of not judging a book by its cover or acting too hastily. While the Oriole’s fruit-eating ways might seem harmful to the farmer, look a little closer and you’ll see that they tend to do much more good than harm.

One interesting quirk of the Baltimore Oriole is its attraction to dark-colored fruits. Orioles tend to enjoy fruit that has become quite ripe. Interestingly, though, Baltimore Orioles show little interest in ripe fruits that are light in color. For example, ripe green grapes and yellow cherries are ignored in favor of dark purple grapes and berries. It is believed that the Oriole has come to recognize dark fruits as ripe and, as a quirk of that adaptation, fails to recognize ripe fruits that lack this feature. So, Orioles might represent single-mindedness, unintended consequences, or unexpected solutions.

Some Orioles, like the Orchard Oriole, enjoy nesting alongside several other species of birds including other Orioles and birds of completely different families, such as kingbirds. Orioles may choose to nest near more aggressive birds than themselves in order to benefit from the protection that this provides against nest parasites, such as the ever-threatening cowbird. So, the Oriole may represent community and the safety that a strong sense of community can provide. They may also represent support systems, friendliness, and sociability.

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Oriole Native American Symbolism

Native American traditions connect the Oriole with industriousness and humility. In some cultures, the Oriole is thought of as the directional guardian of the north. The Pima people think of the Oriole as a representative of the sun.

Oriole Christianity Symbolism

While the Oriole does not feature in the Bible, its connection with fruit and fruiting trees can be tied to the following verse:

“Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field: for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth her fruit, the fig tree and the vine do yield their strength.”

— Joel 2:22

The Oriole can be a great reminder of the beauty and bounty of the earth.

Oriole Celtic Symbolism

Celtic mythology connects songbirds with the Otherworld as well as the Welsh goddess Rhiannon. Rhiannon is a goddess of sovereignty, fertility, queenship, and magic. She is said to be the owner of an incredible otherworldly choir of songbirds.

Oriole in Dreams

Dreaming of an Oriole may represent one’s efforts bearing fruit. An Oriole dream may mean that you are close to being able to enjoy the delicious rewards which will result from your hard work. Persevere through the hard times and you can expect the fruits of your labor to be all the more sweet!

An Oriole dream may also represent misunderstandings. Orioles are sometimes mischaracterized as pests, but they actually serve as natural pest control when it comes to harmful insects. An Oriole dream can be a great reminder to look deeply at any situation before harshly judging others.

Oriole Encounters and Omens

Encountering an Oriole is a sign of both springtime and the fertility and fecundity that accompanies this. Orioles go where their preferred foods are plentiful. A landscape full of Orioles is also a landscape rich in fruit, teeming with insect life, and filled with flowers bearing nectar. Encountering an Oriole can be a really fantastic reminder to pause and appreciate all of these blessings.

Oriole encounters may also remind us of our blind spots. Like the Baltimore Oriole which may ignore perfectly tasty fruit that is lighter in color, we often hold biases and preconceived notions that keep us from judging situations accurately. We may work harder than necessary simply because the obvious solution lies just outside of our point of view. An Oriole encounter can serve as a reminder to “zoom out” and try to see things objectively.

Oriole in Mythology & Folklore

Orioles are not commonly featured in world mythology, however there are a select few Native American stories which highlight this bird. In this section, we’ll summarize two of these stories.

Native American Mythology:

According to one Mayan legend, it is thanks to the Oriole that hummingbirds sport such radiant plumage. According to this story, the hummingbird, Tzunuum, was once a drab little bird. She didn’t mind being plain and colorless, though, because she was very proud of her acrobatic flying abilities. When it came time for Tzunuum to marry, however, she was suddenly quite sad that she would look so plain on her wedding day. The other birds saw this and felt bad for Tzunuum. They considered her a friend and wanted her wedding to be special. So, they all agreed to make a special wedding dress for her. Each of the birds gave up a little bit of their bright plumage to share with Tzunuum. The Oriole, Yuyum, was the greatest tailor among the birds, so she took all of these feathers and sewed them into a lovely wedding gown which they gave to the hummingbird. Tzunuum was so pleased and so grateful for her gown that the Great Spirit was touched and decreed that she could wear the gown that the Oriole had made for her forever.

According to a Tejas legend, the Orchard Oriole became great friends with the pecan tree thanks to two acts of kindness. The first act occurred when the Oriole built his nest in the pecan trees’ branches. The nest soon became home to a family full of tiny little Oriole chicks who were too small to fly. The Oriole and his wife were very proud. One day, though, they could sense a chill wind bringing a ferocious storm to the field where the pecan tree stood. They wept, because they knew that their babies could not fly to escape and their nest would not survive. The pecan tree saw this and pitied the young family. He offered to help them by allowing them to dwell in a hole in his trunk until the storm had passed. The Orioles were grateful, their nest was destroyed, but their whole family was safe from harm. They vowed to return the favor one day, but the pecan tree told them not to worry. He was happy just to have them continue eating the bugs with bit and irritated him. One day, when the Oriole family was down south for the winter, the trees started releasing their spring buds. It was unseasonably warm, so they thought it was safe. Sensing a late season cold snap on the way, the Oriole rushed back up north to the pecan tree and warned him not to put his buds out yet. The pecan tree listened and was able to survive the cold thanks to the Oriole family. From then on, pecan trees and Orioles have remained great friends. The Orioles eat the insects and the pecan tree shares its shelter with them.

Oriole Spirit Animal

If your spirit animal is the Oriole then you are likely agreeable, outgoing, and kind. People with the Oriole as their spirit animal tend to be easy-going, optimistic, and resilient. Hard times are no problem for the Oriole spirit which always remembers that the sun will shine again soon. People with this spirit animal are great at cheering up others through tough situations.

The Oriole spirit animal is honest and expressive. People with this spirit animal do not keep their thoughts to themselves. They are unabashedly unique and unafraid to share their offerings with the world.

Oriole Totem Animal

The Oriole totem animal is connected with community, cooperation, and reciprocity. People with this totem animal are great at community-building. They understand innately that in order to benefit from a support system, one must contribute what they can to make the community healthier and stronger. The Oriole totem is generous and happy to give what it can to uplift those members of its community which need it the most.

Oriole Power Animal

The Oriole power animal is associated with fertility. Be it a garden, a relationship, a career, or a family, the Oriole power animal helps bring one’s efforts to fruition. People with the Oriole as their power animal radiate vibrancy and vivaciousness. They bring this lively energy into everything that they do.

Oriole Tattoo Meaning

An Oriole tattoo may represent a connection to Maryland or Baltimore. Baltimore Orioles baseball fans might choose this tattoo to represent their favorite team.

An Oriole tattoo may also represent optimism, fertility, positivity, or community. Orioles are special birds which remind us of the bounty of nature.


Whether you are a fan of Orioles or a fan of the Baltimore Orioles, it is almost impossible to view the bright colors of the Oriole or to listen to its whistling song and not feel a sense of peace and joy. The Oriole is representative of many of the things which make our world beautiful: fruiting trees, the sunshine that comes with springtime, nectar-rich flowers, and the singing of birds. It is no wonder that the Oriole is beloved amongst gardeners, backyard birders, and baseball enthusiasts alike!

More Spirit Animal Symbolism to Read About:
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Gallinule Symbolism & Meaning (+Totem, Spirit & Omens)
Crane Symbolism & Meaning (+Totem, Spirit & Omens)
Hamerkop Symbolism & Meaning (+Totem, Spirit & Omens)
Nighthawk Symbolism & Meaning (+Totem, Spirit & Omens)

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