New World orioles, comprising the genus Icterus, are a group of birds in the blackbird family. They are not related to Old World orioles, which are in the family Oriolidae, but are strikingly similar in size, diet, behaviour and in their strongly contrasting plumage, and are a good example of convergent evolution. Predictably, the two have been given the same vernacular name.
The males are typically black and yellow or orange, with white markings; the plumage of females and immature birds is duller. These birds go through one moult in a year. They are generally slender with long tails and a pointed bill. They mainly eat insects, but also enjoy nectar and fruit. The nest is a woven, elongated pouch. Several species are easy to attract to birdtables by the provision of cut oranges and grape jelly. Species nesting in areas with cold winters (including most of the United States) are strongly migratory, while subtropical and tropical species are more sedentary.
The name “oriole” was first recorded (in the Latin form oriolus) by Albertus Magnus in about 1250, and was stated by him to be onomatopoeic, from the song of the European Golden Oriole.
The genus name Icterus as used by classical authors, referred to a bird with yellow or green plumage. In modern times this has been identified as the golden oriole. Brisson re-applied the name to the New World birds because of their similarity in appearance.