How to Attract Oriole Birds to Your Backyard

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Get expert tips on attracting orioles. Find out how to bring more oriole birds, including Baltimore oriole birds, to your backyard.

oriole birdCourtesy Deborah Bifulco
Male Baltimore oriole perched on a serviceberry tree

Oriole birds are stunning, much anticipated by bird lovers. Even though males are brighter, female orioles are gorgeous fliers as well. Learn how to identify juvenile and baby orioles.

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 oriole 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 as they migrate north to nest in early spring.

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 every few days, but it was too late. Wondering how to attract oriole birds to your yard? Don’t make the same mistakes I did. Follow the tips below.

female oriole birdCourtesy Kathleen Otto
Orioles can’t get enough of grape jelly!

Expert Tips on How to Attract Orioles

  • Start early. Your best chance of attracting orioles is when they first arrive in early spring.
  • Use the same sugar water 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 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 birdbath has a bubbler, even better. Orioles love the sight and sound of moving water.
  • If you don’t attract orioles in your first year, keep at it. It often takes several seasons to find a following.
bullock's oriole birdCourtesy Karen Osadchey
Bullock’s oriole eating an orange

Look for Oriole Birds in the Backyard

You can find eight oriole species in the United States, but only five are common. Baltimore orioles and orchard orioles are widespread in the East, and the Bullock’s oriole is found throughout the West. 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 do not use birdhouses but will nest in tall deciduous trees. Discover how orioles weave elaborate nests and learn to identify Baltimore oriole eggs.

Your chance to see orioles doesn’t last long, because most of these birds start to migrate south in August. Orioles spend their winters in Mexico and Central and South America, where they can find a steady source of insects, fruit and nectar. 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.

Next, learn what a Baltimore oriole song sounds like.