Baltimore Oriole Migration in the Southeast

Jill Staake

Our first reader question has arrived! Carol from Northern Kentucky asks:

Can you tell me when is the proper time to put out orange slices for Baltimore Orioles?

To find the answer to this question, I consulted eNature.com’s regional birder page for the Southeast. The Spring Migration page offers a list of when migrating birds return to the region, and they list Baltimore Orioles as making a first appearance between April 1 and April 30.

However, the Southeast region is a big one, and it can be weeks between when someone in Georgia might see an oriole and when someone in Kentucky finally spots that welcome flash of orange. I clicked through to the migration map (shown to the right; click the map to see it full-size), and found that in Northern Kentucky, a date of April 16 – 30 is more likely.

To catch the earliest migrators and lure them straight to your yard, you’ll want to have to have food out a little before they’re expected. In Northern Kentucky, start putting out your orange slices and jelly feeders by mid-April. Readers in other regions can consult the map and choose a time that’s right for their area.

If you’re an avid birder and want to help others learn about when birds arrive in your area, consider reporting your sightings through Journey North’s website. They track a variety of species and provide detailed maps to help bird-lovers know when to expect birds based on others’ experiences. Click here to visit Journey North’s Oriole page.

Of course, you can help birders throughout the Southeast by dropping a note right here in our comments to let us know if you’ve spotted Baltimore Orioles yet this spring. Also, look for detailed information on the Baltimore Oriole in this weekend’s Focus on Natives segment!

Do you have a question about birds, butterflies, or gardening in the Southeast? Drop a note in the comments and look for an answer in an upcoming post!

  1. Helen K says

    I live in a suburb of south east Charlotte in a Subdivision housing development. I have only seen an Oriole one time. Can i expect to see more? and what would i need to do that?
    Thanks

  2. says

    Great article Jill! I love using that migration map that you posted to try and guess when my Oriole’s will return. I also keep a wildlife garden journal where I keep track of arrival dates. That helps me a lot because I don’t remember from year to year. My Orioles won’t get here until the beginning of May, so I’ll have to keep an eye on your page so I can enjoy them “virtually” until mine arrive.

  3. Danielle says

    Jill, this is great! I’m in the Midwest, so it looks like I can expect these cuties in the beginning of May. I’ve always loved the Oriole- it was my grandma’s favorite bird, and I suppose she passed the love onto me! I want to try out this easy, budget-friendly oriole feeder this year: http://bit.ly/e3aHMm

  4. Justin says

    I have attracted the same “family” of Baltimore Orioles for over 10 years to my Grand Blanc Michigan back yard. I place a grape jelly/Orange feeder out on April 26th and without fail they arrive within a week. Several pairs will mate and bring their young to feed throughout the summer, eventually leaving in late August.

    • Janice says

      My Father lives in St Clair he has Hummingbird and Oriole feeders out with sugar water, However he says it only keeps the birds from coming 5 or6 weeks where yours may be coming longer What is the grape jelly and orange you are talking about ? As you say your birds leave in Auguast Thank You for Input P.S Is this Special feeders? Please Explain Thanks again.

  5. says

    Jill, We have some big owls calling each other at night in our wooded neighborhood in Riverview Fl. Are they nesting now? I see them in our bird baths drinking in the morning.

    • Jill StaakeJill says

      Rick – Without knowing the species, it’s hard to say for sure, but all five owl species that live in Florida are known to nest at this time of year. Take a look at the Breeding Bird Atlas from the Florida FWC (http://myfwc.com/bba/species.htm) – all five species have information pages with pictures that should help you identify them. I’m so jealous of your owls… I’ve yet to see one in my suburban Tampa neighborhood. Let me know what kind you have!

  6. Libby says

    Does anyone know a way to squirrel-proof a small, eaves-hanging food supply for orioles?

    -More on orioles…I live in north Florida and noticed eastern Towhees frequenting the ground around my birdfeeder area for the first time this year. They looked to me like Baltimore orioles until after a couple weeks I started getting a very close look at them.

    I live in a heavily wooded area of north Florida and would rather attract as few of the resident squirrels, rats, and other rodents to my feeder area as possible. Most of my feeders hang near my kitchen window under a porch roof. That area is then immediately surrounded by large camellias and smaller shrubs, to give the birds cover from the big predator birds which make their rounds often.

    When I had my feeders hanging along the more exposed back porch, I became very alarmed to see in live-action that my set-up had turned into hawk feeders. Then it clicked why a pair of great horned owls and a Cooper’s hawk took up a regular posts in three trees surrounding that area, and why other hawks did rounds overhead . (I came from a big city up north and didn’t know any better at first.) It may be the way of nature for them to eat the songbirds, but not if I can help it. I learned how to make the call of the predator birds and would start doing them to warn any little birds I saw on the front feeders. However that may have ended up bringing the predator birds closer to investigate, as they sometimes returned calls to me, so that was the end of that idea.

    -I discovered one squirrel-proof way my tube feeder (which was supposed to be squirrel proof but turned out not to be when a squirrel sent it swaying), was to enclose it in a cage made by that purpose (Duncraft sells them, for one), and then to lay a piece of vinyl tablecloth on the cage floor and up a little on the sides.

    - I was thinking of using another cage like this as a last resort for mealworms, but the cage is very large, and the mealworm feeder very small. Has anyone seen a very small cage anywhere?

    I bought a hanging seed feeder that has an outer shell that completely comes down when a squirrel alights on it, but my squirrels overcome this by jumping at it to send it swinging so the seeds dump out.

    -My new green and black no-no finch feeder with an attached bottom tray has eliminated almost all the seed mess that was landing on my porch floor from the feeder above.

    Besides the larger forest animals, there are plenty of small critters, birds, owls and hawks. A raccoon left its muddy pawprints along my back deck and up one roof support, and tore down my squirrel proof suet feeder. I never throught I’d have to raccoon-proof one of my hanging feeders!

    -I have a metal nut ball that hangs from a small chain, for chopped apples and unsalted peanut halves for the titmice and wrens. A catbird often tries to get at it, which is like watching an elephant try to perch on a volleyball, except the nutball also swings. So, rodents or no, in the cold spells I feel sorry for the catbirds, and for the thrashers and doves, bluejays, woodpeckers – and sometimes maybe even the squirrels, and end up throwing small handsful of food out in the yard for them, well away from the house.

    • Jill StaakeJill says

      Libby – A few ways to avoid squirrels: for seed feeders (which orioles won’t visit), use safflower seed. Many bird species still like it, but squirrels don’t seem interested.

      For orioles, use a nectar feeder instead of fruit or jelly. You can use a hummingbird feeder if it offers perches for the orioles, or buy a specially-made orange colored oriole nectar feeder.

      Let us know about your successes!

      • says

        To all of you that are trying to attract Orioles, Put out Orange slices, Grape Jelly, and also the nector, or sugar water, but also keep a suet feeder up. Last year I had several Orioles, and they ate off the suet feeders. I make my own, using bacon grease, peanut butter and wild bird seed, chopped up apples, and a little flour to help hold it all together. I was very surprised to see them at the suet feeders, but they sure enjoyed it. Hope this helps.

        • Jill says

          Thanks for the great tip, Audrey. I’ve even seen ready-made orange-flavored suet that I’m guessing would be just perfect for orioles.

  7. Josey says

    I live in Southeastern Florida in a suburban area. I would love to find an oriole in my yard. What time of year do they arrive here and how long do they stay?

    • Jill StaakeJill says

      Josey – According to most available information, Baltimore Orioles winter in Florida, arriving in fall and departing in spring. I myself live in Central Florida and have never seen a Baltimore Oriole here, but there are definitely reported sightings so they must be around. By now, these birds should have departed Florida to head north for the summer. They will return in the fall, so plan to set out a feeder next October and see if you can attract any. Good luck!

  8. Mel Gilman says

    I live in Maine, I used to live closer to southern Miane about four years ago and was able to attract several pairs of Orioles. I have moved and have been more in Central-Northern Maine for the past three-four years, I put out my necter feeders and oranges slices (making sure that I change them often), but have had no luck luring “any” orioles. I really miss seeing them. Can you give me any tips or suggestions that I can do to attract them?
    Thanks
    Mel:)

  9. Jill StaakeJill says

    Mel – Have you seen any orioles in your area in general, such as local parks? Although these birds are fairly common, populations can vary across regions, and people in one county may see them often while others in the county next door rarely do. Orioles prefer tall trees for nesting and even feeding – do you have any on or near your property? Also, Orioles can be fairly choosy – if you don’t have feeders out when they first return to your region, they may not visit at all that season. For tips on selecting and hanging a good oriole feeder, see this post and be sure to follow the links included. Good luck!
    http://www.birdsandblooms.com/2011/03/05/baltimore-oriole-southeast/

  10. Vicki says

    I see birds like these feeding off the cherry tree right outside my window at the office and I live in Northern California. Can these truly be orioles?

  11. Karen and Wayne says

    We live in Coastal South Carolina, three miles inland from Hilton Head Island. Our Orioles come every winter in early January to eat our oranges and grape jelly! They also eat peanuts when it is cold. I think we should try late November to see if we can draw them in earlier! They usually stay until mid-March. This year we had two males and one female! So colorful and beautiful! THey cane up close to the kitchen window too, to drink from the bird bath.

  12. Keek says

    I live in Northern Ohio and the first wave of Orioles have already come through, please dont wait, migration is early this year, put your feeders out now. Winds have consistently been coming from the south and southwest which is not a normal pattern for the last couple of months and birds are riding in behind this strong fronts. I have lots of early bird species this spring.

  13. Yvette says

    I put out my oriole feeder (jelly and oranges) and all I ever get are flys and bees stuck in the food.

  14. John R says

    We’ve tried all the options for attracting Orioles to our feeders – oranges, grape jelly, nectar, etc. They are in the area because we see them high in the trees. We have a number of feeders in the habitat for other birds, which attract a wide variety of other birds. I wonder if the other birds scare the Orioles away? The one success we had was 2 years ago when a female took colored yarn for her nest. She was carefully watched over by a male standing guard in a nearby tree. The yarn was in a location set apart from the other feeders. Are there other bird species that Orioles don’t get along with?

    • Jill says

      John – I don’t think the presence of other birds would be keeping the orioles away. They do prefer to feed up high, so if you have high trees nearby, it could be that they are finding all the food they need and just feel safer there, especially if you have feral cats or many dogs in your neighborhood. Many people say that the real key to attracting orioles is to be sure to have your feeders out early in the season before they arrive, so they’re more likely to stop in your yard. If you haven’t seen my other posts on Baltimore Orioles, take a look and see if there are any further tips that might help you. Good luck!
      http://www.birdsandblooms.com/2011/03/05/baltimore-oriole-southeast/

  15. Pat Mc says

    During the spring of 2009 my husband was out of work and put our little waterfall out on the deck early in April. Not only was it the first time I had Orioles in my yard, but they built a nest in a wild cherry hanging directly over the fountain. Last year I saw 3 in the spring, and was so excited that the pair returned with a baby (?) but the fountain wasn’t out yet and I didn’t see them again. Thanks for the reminder – the hubs needs to get that fountain out tomorrow!!!

  16. Nancy MM says

    I live in east central Iowa. We live in a wooded area and I feed the birds all year long. We have had 2 sets for Orioles that nest here and several that pass through. It is so exciting to wait for their arrival along with the Humming Birds, Rosebrested Grossbeaks, and Indigo Bunting. I LOVE BIRDS!

  17. Jay L. Rey says

    Last year we had a pair of Baltimore Orioles in the spring, later they raised 3 babies. 2 females and 1 male. This year I am feeding 3 females and 2 males. I have put out orange slices, I guess they are lazy because they will only eat the grape jelly. Lots of it. We love to watch them. Does anyone know how they feed their babies?

  18. Erik Neil says

    I had a male and female Baltimore Orioles at my suet feeder this weekend. Been in Athens GA since 97 and this was the first time seeing them. Hope they stick around.

  19. Deanna says

    I live in Wisconsin and started seeing orioles again this year. Two weeks ago I had SIX at one time at the feeder! Now I’m not seeing them. When are they nesting in my area?

  20. Ruth Kartsounes says

    We live in Livingston County, in Michigan. The first Baltimore Orioles we saw was on April 2 , 2012. Our home backs up to woods and this year we had the most Orioles ever. So far (July, 2012) we’ve used seven large jars of grape jelly. Keeping the feeders stocked meant filling the feeders three times a day with grape jelly. It will be a sad thing when they leave as they are waiting for the jelly when I get up at 6am. This has been the best year for seeing so many Orioles. One year I even found the white sac hanging high up in a tree in the woods. The most heart warming sight was having the male orioles bring the babies to our deck and feed them the jelly. This was in mid June and went on for four weeks.

  21. Karen Savage says

    I have had a great # of Orioles around my Mid-Michigan home all summer long. I have grape jelly out that all kinds of birds enjoy. The babies all get their share!! A dozen or more lg jars of jelly/jam have been eaten this year. I also put out 6 hummingbird/oriole feeders which are shared by the Hummies, Orioles, Woodpeckers. My Orioles disappeared about the first day of August. There one day, gone the next. Do they gather together like the Sandhill Cranes to migrate together. This early in the year? Someone thought they went up north 100 miles or so and then migrate together. Any ideas? I sure do miss their song outside my bedroom window in the mornings!!

  22. Debi neumann says

    We had a male and female oriole on our hummingbird feeders, so we started putting out grape jelly for them. They’d visit the jelly every 30 min . The jelly started attracting mockingbirds…they loved the jelly as well. It has been a week…no sign of Mr. Or Mrs. Oriole…did the mockingbirds scare them away..

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