How to Attract Orioles

The early bird gets the worm when it comes to attracting orioles to your backyard. Find out more about the oriole family and how to attract them to your yard.

Last April, I was picking up clothes from my daughter’s bedroom floor when my eye caught a flash of orange outside her window. Dirty socks in hand, I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of a brilliant orange-and-black Bullock’s oriole. There he was, clinging to my flower basket, plucking and eating the red blossoms from my geraniums. Oh no, I thought, I don’t have my feeder out!

It was mid-April in New Mexico, and I knew orioles were already arriving. Customers at my bird store had reported seeing them for a week or so, but procrastination got the best of me. Normally a bit of laziness doesn’t make much difference when feeding birds, but with orioles, timing is everything!

After a few minutes, my oriole flew off. Moving quickly, I found my oriole feeder, filled it with sugar water and hung it outside. I never saw the orange guy come back, though.

For the next couple of weeks, I faithfully filled the feeder with fresh nectar every few days, but it was too late.

Orioles are stunning birds, much anticipated by bird lovers. Even though males are brighter, females are gorgeous fliers as well.

How to Attract Orioles: Scott's Oriole

Scott’s Oriole

How to Attract Orioles: Bullock's Oriole

Bullock’s Oriole

How to Attract Orioles: Orchard Oriole

Orchard Oriole

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can find nine orioles in the United States, but only five are common.

Wondering how to attract Orioles to your yard? Baltimore and orchard orioles are widespread in the East, and the Bullock’s is found throughout the West. The Scott’s and hooded orioles are common in the Southwest, but you can see the other four orioles only at the extreme southern edge of Texas or Florida.

Orioles spend their winters in Mexico and Central and South America, where they can find a steady source of insects, fruit and nectar. Then they migrate north to nest in early spring.

And what a nest it is! Many orioles look for tall deciduous trees, where they carefully weave together plant fiber and sometimes yarn or string.

Some orioles will take up to 12 days to construct their pendulous sac-shaped nests on the ends of slender branches. This precarious placement keeps the eggs and babies relatively safe from climbing predators and other nest robbers.

Your chance to see orioles doesn’t last long, because most start to migrate south in August. It’s a thrill to see these beautiful and sometimes elusive songbirds. Whether you spot them for just a day or are lucky enough to have them visit your yard most of the summer, they are one of spring’s greatest bird treasures.

All in the Family

BALTIMORE ORIOLE. This stunning black-and-orange bird is found throughout the Midwestern and Eastern U.S. It is very similar in appearance to its Western cousin, the Bullock’s oriole. In fact, at one time both species were considered the same and were called the northern oriole. Their ranges overlap in the middle of the country. Some Baltimore orioles spend their winters as far north as the extreme Southeast coast of the U.S.

BULLOCK’S ORIOLE. Bullock’s orioles are the most widespread orioles in the West, where they prefer to nest in tall trees along streams and rivers. They are named in honor of William Bullock and his son, who did extensive ornithological work in Mexico in the early 1800s. Bullock’s orioles love grasshoppers and will feast on them almost exclusively when they are plentiful.

ORCHARD ORIOLE. The orchard oriole is the smallest oriole in North America and is common throughout the Midwest and East, though you may not see it as often as the Baltimore because it rarely visits nectar feeders. The orchard oriole comes a bit later than other orioles in the spring and sometimes heads south as early as mid-July.

SCOTT’S ORIOLE. Commonly seen in the arid Southwest, the Scott’s is hard to miss. The male is lemon-yellow and black and readily comes to nectar feeders. Although many orioles nest in very tall trees, the Scott’s often nests in the relatively short yucca plant. It also eats nectar from the yucca flowers and uses fibers taken from dead yucca for nest building.

HOODED ORIOLE. The hooded oriole is also found in the Southwest and is named for the male’s orange hood. This small, slender oriole often builds her nest in palm trees, where she literally sews the saclike nest onto a palm leaf.

Photography c/o Scott’s Oriole: Patsy Hicks; Bullock’s Oriole: Roland Jordahl; Orchard Oriole: Hazel Erikson

More expert tips on how to attract Orioles to your backyard!

  • Start early. Your best chance of attracting orioles is when they first arrive in early spring.
  • Use the same nectar recipe for orioles as you do for hummingbirds-four parts boiled water to one part sugar. Keep nectar fresh, and don’t use food coloring.
  • These birds are attracted to the color orange, so look for a sugar-water feeder specifically designed for orioles.
  • Make sure your feeder has large enough perches and drinking ports. It’s not unusual for orioles to try hummingbird feeders, but their bills are often too big. Orioles love the color and taste of oranges. Offer orange halves on a branch or feeder. Orioles will also eat grape jelly. Serve the jelly in an open dish or cup, and keep it fresh.
  • When placing the oriole feeder in your yard, think like a bird. Instead of hiding the feeder under an awning or tree, put it out in the open so the birds can see it while flying overhead.
  • Hang your feeder near a birdbath. If your bath has a bubbler, even better. Orioles love the sight and sound of moving water.
  • Put out yarn and string. Orioles and other backyard songbirds will use it for their nests.
  • If you don’t attract orioles in your first year, keep at it. It often takes several seasons to find a following.
  1. Joe Kirk says

    If you have honey bees on your Hummingbird feeder, Don’t trap them . Be thankful you have them. The world supply of polinators is getting dangerously low. Don’t kill them. They have a nest to feed. Thank you Joe Kirk

  2. John Farrell says

    Attracting Orioles is the most difficult thing we have tried to do. We have a wonderful wildlife habitat with many different species of birds, butterflies and animals but getting Orioles to appear has been almost impossible. They are in the area but stay at the tops of high trees. The only thing that worked one time was loose string for a nest. Didn’t work twice. We have lots of hummingbirds but can’t attract Orioles, and we live outside Baltimore!!

    • Susie Heck says

      Don’t be discouraged. I live in Carroll County and I have lots of Orioles. I cut up bailing twine into 6″ lengths and untwist it. Then I put the threads out on twigs and tomato cages starting in mid March. I have the tomato cages in pots on my deck so that the birds can see them and so I can see the birds. I have had eight females collecting strings at one time. I put out orange halves in the Spring. I think the color does attract the Orioles, but they love grape jelly. I have made feeders that have a cup of jelly that is covered by a roof to keep the sun off and the rain out, but on the outside of the feeder I have wooden pegs to put the orange halves on. After about a month or so, I don’t need to put oranges out at all. They just come for the jelly until about mid August when they migrate South with the hummingbirds. Good Luck!!

      • says

        I seen your note on their website & I’ve never seen an orioloe so maybe you can help. Ived been reading birds and bloom for a while but it nevertyells me where to buy an oriole feeder. Maybe you coulkd help me. I feed the hummingbirds but no orioles. Please help. I live in South Carolina down @ Lake Wylie if that helps.

        • says

          I have seen Oriole feeders at my local Ace hardware. If they aren’t in stock, they can be ordered. You might also try an online search. Hope this is of help to you.

        • sharon says

          I had orioles drinking from my hummingbird feeders but no hummingbirds.Do the orioles scare off the hummingbirds?I had to quit putting them out ,at night something is pulling them off the stakes or emptying them. Could that be deer?

          • Valerie says

            Orioles live happily with hummingbirds. They don’t scare them. In fact the hummers will sip the weaker oriole nectar at the same time as orioles are drinking. At night, bats come to the nectar feeders using the “bump & slurp”
            technique. Although this empties the feeders, this is good, because bats also eat mosquitoes that carry disease.

    • Marie says

      I have found that the Orioles are not real “public” birds. It seems they prefer an area to feed by themselves. Granted, other birds will visit, but we have had the best luck with Grape jelly on an orange colored feeder, in front of the house, rather than on the side where we feed the hummers. We served up 3 medium sized jars of grape jelly last summer.They come about the same time as the Hummers to Ohio, so we start putting out feeders the second week of April.

    • Pat Lupa says

      We are lucky to have found our secret for keeping the orioles coming back this summer. They love the grape jelly that I keep in a little low bowl for them? They have enjoyed that more than oranges so as long as they stay they will get continual grape jelly.

  3. Paulette Wickert says

    I’ve been honored to have 4 to 12 Balimore orioles in Va. Show up past 9 yrs. mine will only pick at an orange, many times not touching it. I put out grape jelly a scoop of peanut butter and a a bowl of sugar- they will not use an orange sugar water feeder ! They leave around the end of March. Then at then end of sept. I place a plastic orange pumpkin on a fence post ( kind kids use for trick or treating ) and put the food out and wait !

  4. Mary Thorne says

    I was fortunate to have had several orioles in my back yard in northwest Indiana along with a variety of other birds. My guys gobble up the jelly but only eat the hummingbird nectar!

    • Terry Gadberry says

      Last Apr/May was the first year trying to entice orioles to my feeder. The last week in apr I had 1 oriole that came to the feeder and left. The first week of may, brought more orioles than I had resources to handle. I was going through oranges and jelly on a weekly basis. This year I bought extra orange feeders to hang and will be looking for that early oriole scout.

  5. Judy Axtell says

    I use mint extract, applied with a Q-tip, on the ports of my hummingbird and oriole feeders. I also apply it where the bottle comes in contact with the feeder and to any edges where the feeder may open for thorough cleaning. This deters bees, wasps, and hornets, giving our birds a safe place to feed.

    • Mary Youngblut says

      Does the mint extract keep the ants away too? I have a heck of time with “swimming” ants, lol!

      • linhawk says

        my feeder has a flat top. I use talcum powder to keep the ants off. I unscrew the feeder to clean and refill. I don’t wash the flat top. Haven’t had an ant in years.

    • Valerie says

      I have found that bees, wasps, flies, earwigs, etc. not only drink oriole nectar, but climb in the port holes and drown–causing the nectar water to spoil.

      For years I have made tabs of masking tape [by bending both sticky ends back on a 2-inch piece--to make them easier to remove when it is time to change the nectar] to cover up the feeder ports.

      Once the 3 masking tape tabs are covering the 3 feeder ports, I take a scalpel or the tip of a sharp knife to cut a tiny slit in the tape over the port hole. The orioles are smart enough to slide their beaks in to drink, but the insects can’t figure out how to steal the nectar. I keep a large bird bath of fresh water that colonies of bees can drink.

  6. Richard the birdman of ankeny says

    Put out grape jelly in glass votive candle holders-guaranteed orioles all summer!

  7. says

    What about orioles in north Georgia? I saw one on the fence outside my bedroom several years ago. It was here and gone. I went outside, but never saw it again. I thought maybe my eyes tricked me. I keep feeders for most types of birds, including hummingbirds, and always fresh water. I keep bird houses and nesting material handy. In the past I would put out orange slices, but not any more. If we can attract orioles here in north Georgia, I will add an appropriate nectar feeder, grape jelly, peanut butter, and orange slices. I would love to see them this year. Thanks!

  8. JoAnn Davis says

    It was a pleasant surprise when we had Baltimore Orioles nest in the tree in our front yard, right above our garage, in front of our bathroom window! We got to see them every day until the fledglings left the nest. After that we could hear them in the nearby trees, but they didn’t come back to the tree. We haven’t had them nest there again. Nothing has changed in our yard so I am wondering what I can do to bring them back? Any suggestions are greatly appreciated!

  9. WayesHomeAccessory says

    Orioles are indeed some beautiful birds.
    Remember when trying to attract birds to your garden mske sure thst your feeder is placed in a natural setting away from areas that you and your family use.

  10. John Carran says

    Took several years trying to attract them but once they found us, they visit our feeder in a steady stream for 2-3 months (Western Illinois). We have tried sugar water, orange slices, and grape jelly, and the jelly is the only thing that they really seem to like.

    • Kathy Kramer says

      We have quite a few Baltimore Orioles that visit our feeding station. They are gorgeous birds. They show up in May and leave way too early. They have been coming back here every year and the young hang out here. They enjoy suet and I put out oranges – halved. I’ve been surprised that they LOVE suet ! I didn’t know that until they started eating it…

  11. says

    I live in Mid-Missouri and spotted this year’s first Orchard Oriole a couple of days ago, ran and got my Jar of Grape Jelly and today I saw him eating it, also put out an orange slice. Have’nt seen the Baltimore Oriole yet, but we have them every year, also. Beautiful birds!

  12. Debbie says

    I tried to attract Baltimore Orioles for the last two years. Didn’t see a one. This Sunday, i was reading inside and looked out at my suet feeder and there was a male Baltimore Oriole! What a marvelous sight! I didn’t have my oriole feeder out yet. I saw three more males that afternoon and have seen them yesterday too. Always at my suet feeders…even a suet feeder hanging from the roof of my patio! A saw the female this morning. I stopped to get oranges on my way to work and will stop to get grape jelly on my way home! I can’t tell you what seeing the Orioles did for my soul. It made my week. You haven’t seen true orange until you see a Baltimore Oriole. BTW – I live in Pennsylvania.

  13. wordy says

    We had one beautiful Yellow Oriole surprise us at a hummingbird feeder last summer in Orange County, CA and now have two feeding this Spring! Our feeders are under house eaves. Perhaps the original Oriole followed the hummers to the feeders.

  14. Sally Smith says

    Waiting for the orioles in North Dakota. I always have them in the spring but I have had my oranges out since the first of April and put out fresh ones a few times and nothing.

    • Julie says

      I read an article that states that due to cold/snowy weather out west, the birds are delayed getting there. Hold on. I just saw my first oriole on May 11th. I live north of Chicago.

  15. DORA says

    I live in NE Iowa had a male and female oriole stop in our yard this weekend put out orange halves and purple grapes, it was what I had saw them for two days now. Will add grape jelly today when I get home. Thanks

  16. eliza says

    I just seen an oriole at my hummingbird feeder. Every year (for the past 5 years) I am blessed to see one oriole once in the early spring. I live in Barrie Ontario Canada so I think my once a year sighting is on the flight path to somewhere other than my area. What a beautiful surprise

  17. Tim says

    I had Orioles for about a week starting on May 4. My food was ready when they arrived. Oranges, grape jelly and nectar. I kept it fresh every day. They were everywhere, males, females. Then they were gone. Very disappointed. I was hoping they would stay for the summer. Any idea why they didn’t stay?

  18. Uekiya says

    I live in Maine between Portland and Auburn. I try to have my orange halves out early to be sure that they will return. (We also put out grape jelly but it is the orange halves that they spot in flight.) It was about the end of April when they finally appeared. We had one pair that nested here last summer. What an amazing nest they make…. unbelievably strong!! We thought for sure some of the strong winds we had would blow it off the branch (they have very little holding them to the branch) We were wondering if they would re-use the same nest. I did read today that they don’t re-use the old nest BUT will sometimes use the same tree/branch. Sure enough, Mrs. was checking out the old nest as well as some of the surrounding branches! We are so excited… hoping she will make her new nest close to the old one. They are GORGEOUS!!

  19. Tracy says

    What a lovely surprise!! I had a beautiful male at my hummingbird feeder – I’ve put some grape juice ( no jelly ) in a small dish on a bright orange plate, hoping he will return. I have never seen one of these little beauties in my yard before. Trenton, Ontario

  20. Marilyn says

    I have 2 sets of Baltimore orioles this year. Saw them arrive around May 17th and they love everything I have put out for them including orange halves, blueberry jam, powder sugar donuts, suet, and peanut butter. They are beautiful and I have not had them at my feeders since 2002. I live in Duluth, Minnesota and we still have snow in some parking lots!

  21. Cheri says

    I put out orange slices and have to pairs coming everyday. when the orange slices were picked clean, I used the end pieces to put jelly in, like little bowls. Then used wood skewers to hang them up. They use the skewers to perch on and eat the jelly.

    I Live In Michigan

  22. Mischa Barr says

    I got an Oriole feeder from a wild bird specialty store. It has feeding ports for sugar water, indentations for grape jelly, and the central screw is for spearing an orange half. My orioles also like apple butter. I’m in northern Ohio.

  23. kate says

    we got our feeders out early this year…have had 2 females and 3 males finish off 3 orange 1/2s and 2 jelly dishes per day! they chatter at us if we are too close or the food isn’t refilled.

  24. kate says

    I hang a large piece of red fabric on my clothesline when it’s time for them to return. I have grape jelly ready. The moment I hear their song I put jelly out. They come in waves over two or three weeks usually in May. At peak this year I had 100. They eat three quarts of jelly a day. The spectacle is overwhelming; I call it my ‘oriole circus’.

  25. Pam says

    I had good luck with oranges this year. I have a couple of pairs I think. Tried the Oriole feeder it was a no go.

  26. Kathie Lipscomb says

    Our orioles forsake all for Grape Jelly. Mealy worms when nesting. We used to have only Baltimore Orioles, but now we have many Orchard Orioles too. Yeah!!!! They came end of April too.

  27. Judy Fox says

    I have Baltimore Orioles coming to my orange feeder made to hold grape jelly. The robin has found it and sometimes scares the Oriole away. Both the female & male come. I make sure the jelly is high fructose free. It is hard to find,but Welches makes a natural grape jelly.

  28. Carol Devine says

    I have had a pair of Baltimore Orioles here for the last seven days. I didn’t try to attract them, they just showed up, and eat my homemade suet cakes like it’s going out of style. I was told they like oranges and grape jelly, so I ran out to buy these and an oriole feeder. The Orioles ignored all this stuff, and continue to feast on the homemade suet cakes.

  29. Lori Andersen says

    My parents live in Blanchard Michigan and they have several Orioles every year. They have a sugar water feeder grape jelly feeders. They can’t keep the jelly full. They sure are beautiful birds.

  30. Lori Andersen says

    My parents live in Blanchard Michigan and they have several Orioles every year. They have a sugar water feeder & grape jelly feeders. They can’t keep the jelly full. They sure are beautiful birds.

  31. Suzanne says

    I live in Highlands Ranch, CO (a southern suburb of Denver.) As soon as I heard my first hummingbird in late April/early May, I put out my two hummingbird feeders. To my delight the first visitor(s) was a beautiful bright orange oriole. He visited for about a week and then I never saw him again. This was the first time I had ever had orioles in my backyard. I will try again next year!!

  32. Papa says

    We have some hanging planters with cocoa mats lining them. The robins and orioles tears the mats up to get nest building materials We have to replace the cocoa mats every year but it is worth it to see the birds working them over.

  33. Kay Fruehauf says

    I started attracting orioles last year. I bought an orange plastic picnic platter and 4 orange plastic bowls ($1.00 each at Walmart). I cut 2 bowls down to about 3/4″-1″ tall. Put some clear glass beads or sm. marbles in the bottom of 1 for water. Put some beads/marbles in a small craft plastic zip bag in the other bowl for grape jelly. I put the 2 bowls on the platter on one of our tables on the patio and filled one with water and the other one(with beads in the bag) with grape jelly. Then filled the platter with water-no ants. I now have several orioles coming daily and this year have seen many, many house finches eating the grape jelly and drinking the water. I’ve even seen a few of the finches taking a bath in the water. They are a delight to watch.

  34. Monica says

    Baltimore Orioles have been steadily increasing over the last few years. this year we had more than a dozen males,feasting on 12 orange halves for 3 weeks. the grape jelly disappears daily. Then the female arrived and only 2 males stayed.they let me know daily when the oranges need replacing. we line in northern Maine.

  35. Eleanor says

    This is the first year I have had Orioles. I have 2 pair and they are so beautiful. They come every day in the afternoon to get the jelly and nectar water. My cat likes to sit on the window sill and watch them when they are eating the jelly. We live in Shoemakersville , Pa/

  36. darlene says

    I saw a Baltimore Oriole for the first time about 3 weeks ago. It was sitting on top of the hummimgbird feeder. I immediately went out and bought an oriole feeder and hung it in the back yard. I have put fresh nectar in it every few days. I haven’t seen an oriole since that first day. Do you think I will see any the rest of the season?

  37. Ann says

    Orioles love grape jam/jelly. They are attracted to the colour orange so we started by putting grap jam in a hollowed out orange half and then moved to just bowls of grape jam once we had success.
    My daughter and I did a study by setting out 4 bowls of different jam. Initially they tried cherry but once they saw the grape that was it, they never touched the cherry again and the orange marmalade and apple jelly were never touched at all.
    Our male oriole visitor hangs on our window screen and sings into the house, he also taps on the glass with his beak. The female also visits but only to the feeder outside the window.
    They are stunning and their song is one of the most beautiful I have heard

  38. Pat Lupa says

    We have kept the orioles at our feeder longer this year with only grape jelly. They are addicted to the sweetness of the jelly. They are gorgeous to watch so whatever it takes to keep them around we will do. I have never seen them at my feeder this long until I discovered how much they love the grape jelly!

  39. Deb says

    We have enjoyed these beauties for years at our cabin in western WI. They love grape jelly, and is is fun to watch the parents feed their young until the babies figure out how to feed alone.

  40. peggy bass says

    We had a nesting pair of Orioles this year. I was putting out a cut orange everyday and they gobbled that up ! They stayed for about 2 months eating orange halves and then they disappeared. I am hoping to see them on their way back again down south.

  41. Lyuda says

    We use about one and a half jars of grape jelly per day. There are at least twelve babies, along with at least three pairs of adults. We also have an oriole nectar feeder, and we start with sliced oranges in May when they first return. The high numbers are a first for us.

  42. says

    I have found that the oriole like the combination of the sunflower, corn and and mullet. I also have a humming feeder close by. I need to know what type of food for the feeders I need?

  43. JohnC says

    After several years of trying to attract Orioles, we eventually got them, and now they are non-stop at our grape jelly feeder. This year we put the feeder out in late August, and they stopped back on their way South. We have been watching Orioles for about two weeks.

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