Orioles and Fruit-Loving Birds Love to Eat Grape Jelly

Go beyond birdseed and mix up your backyard menu with grape jelly for birds. Fruit-eating orioles, catbirds and tanagers love it!

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What Birds Eat Grape Jelly?

what birds eat grape jellyCourtesy Rena Lagerblade
Put out a dish of grape jelly to attract Baltimore orioles and other fruit-lov birds.

Grape jelly is a magic lure for some birds. Fruit-eating birds like orioles, catbirds and tanagers can’t get enough of the stuff, especially in early spring, when their usual sweet treats are hard to come by. And as migrating birds make their long journeys north, they’re especially inclined to stop by backyards that feature energizing jelly on the menu.

Orioles aren’t too picky when it comes to jelly, but Bullock’s orioles and Baltimore orioles in particular love the grape flavor, because it tastes similar to the dark, ripe fruits they normally eat, grapes included.

what birds eat jellyCourtesy Trystan Roberts
Spring migration season is the best time to offer grape jelly.

Watch your feeder long enough and you might also see other birds eat grape jelly, like robins and gray catbirds, which are attracted to yards that offer both jelly and a water source. Additional birds that visit these sweet feeders, especially during their migration, include summer and scarlet tanagers, northern mockingbirds and rose-breasted grosbeaks. Woodpeckers and house finches might also stop by.

Learn how to attract orioles to your backyard.

Grape Jelly Bird Feeding Tips

male and female orchard orioleCourtesy Pam Garcia
Female and male orchard orioles share an orange and jelly

“What are some general guidelines for feeding grape jelly to birds?” asks Nancy Jenks of Galesville, Wisconsin.

Birding experts Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman say, “Grape jelly is not harmful in small amounts, but jelly doesn’t provide all the nutrients birds need. Think of it as a snack or dessert, not a main course, and use limited amounts at a time.”

Find out what other foods orioles eat.

“It’s OK to provide a little more during peak spring migration for orioles (April in the South and early May in the North), but after the local breeding season starts, a quarter of a cup per day is a good rule. Smaller amounts are also less likely to spoil in hot weather or to get sticky residue on the birds’ feathers,” the Kaufmans explain.

Learn how to identify orchard orioles.

Jelly Feeders for Orioles

275385512 1 Patrick Roden Bnb Bypc 2021Courtesy Patrick Roden
Baltimore oriole on a jelly feeder

The best way to set out jelly is in a tray or dish about 1 inch deep and 3 to 4 inches wide. Wild bird feed supply stores offer different types of jelly feeders. One popular style of oriole feeder features a small glass dish. You can also hang a jelly feeder on a bird feeder pole for extra protection. Just make sure you keep it away from marauding squirrels and in a place where you can easily clean and refill it.

Although there’s no way to stop bees from taking advantage of jelly served from open-style feeders, oriole feeders with bee guards are also available. They have a design similar to a hummingbird feeder. You can fill them with sugar water or try this oriole nectar recipe.

You should purchase jelly that doesn’t have artificial sweeteners, colors and flavors. Check the jelly daily to watch for mold. Always clean the feeder out and add fresh stuff if the jelly starts looking dubious.

Never add these foods to your hummingbird mixture.

Bnbbyc19 Kathleen Janik DupCourtesy Kathleen Janik
Female and juvenile Baltimore orioles feeding on jelly

Get your jelly feeder up in April, when migration is in full swing. It may take some time for orioles to find your jelly feeders. Birds need to feed their young protein-rich foods, like insects, but once the offspring have fledged, their parents often bring them to jelly feeders. Here’s how to identify baby orioles and juvenile orioles.

The feeder will probably see less and less action as summer continues, but things should pick up again during fall migration.

Next, we asked the experts if birds can eat peanut butter.

Sheryl DeVore
Sheryl DeVore is a science, nature, health and social issues writer, editor and educator. In addition to being an expert on wild birds, she has been studying plants, insects and other natural wonders for more than 25 years. Her byline has appeared in Birds & Blooms, the Chicago Tribune and the publications of the National Audubon Society and the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. DeVore has taught journalism classes at Northwestern University, as well as nature and bird writing classes and workshops for The Field Museum, The Nature Conservancy, the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Lake County Forest Preser.
Kirsten Schrader
Kirsten has more than 15 years of experience writing and editing birding and gardening content. As content director of Birds & Blooms, she leads the team of editors and freelance writers sharing tried-and-true advice for nature enthusiasts who love to garden and feed birds in their backyards. Since joining Birds & Blooms 17 years ago, Kirsten has held roles in digital and print, editing direct-to-consumer books, running as many as five magazines at a time, and managing special interest publications. Kirsten has traveled to see amazing North American birds and attended various festivals, including the Sedona Hummingbird Festival, the Rio Grande Bird Festival, The Biggest Week in American Birding Festival, and the Cape May Spring Festival. She has also witnessed the epic sandhill crane migration while on a photography workshop trip to Colorado. Kirsten has participated in several GardenComm and Outdoor Writers Association of America annual conferences and is a member of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology. When she's not researching, writing, and editing all things birding and gardening, Kirsten is enjoying the outdoors with her nature-loving family. She and her husband are slowly chipping away at making their small acreage the backyard of their dreams.