Usually, you hear the male's loud, flutelike whistle before you see the bird. Adult male upperparts are black, with orange shoulders, lower back, rump, and part of the outer tail feathers. Underparts are bright orange, with a black throat and upper breast. Upperparts of female are olive brown above, with dark streaks and bars on the head and back. Underparts are dull orange yellow with some dark mottling on the throat. First-year males may lack or have only partially black hoods. The voice is a clear, whistled series of musical notes that usually contain the whistled call "tchew lee."
Similar species: A western bird, Bullock's oriole (Icterus bullockii), used to be grouped with the Baltimore oriole as the same species, the "northern oriole." Now scientists consider them two different species. Bullock's/Baltimore hybrids, or Bullock's orioles themselves, may occasionally appear in our state.