How to Feed Orioles: What Do Orioles Eat?
Orioles don't eat birdseed. Experts answer how to feed orioles and what do orioles eat to help birders bring more of these birds to the backyard.
Among the most sought-after backyard birds, Baltimore orioles, orchard orioles, and Bullock’s orioles boast bright orange and black coloration and build interesting gourd-shaped nests at the end of tree branches. Some folks seem to have plenty of luck bringing these birds to their backyard feeders, while others struggle year after year to bring these elusive flyers in. Learn what foods orioles eat and how to feed orioles.
What Do Orioles Eat?
First, it’s important to understand that orioles don’t eat seeds and won’t visit a traditional bird feeder. A Baltimore oriole’s diet consists of fruit, nectar, and insects. David Musumeche of Backyard Chirper says, “the perfect oriole feeder station should be able to offer fruit, a sugar water solution holder, containers for mealworms, and containers for offering jellies…Your feeding station should be about seven feet off of the ground.”
Courtesy Lisa King
Grape Jelly for Orioles
Orioles love sweet sugary treats in spring, as they finish their long migrations. Grape jelly and fruit are high-energy foods that give them the boost they need to sustain their travels. To feed orioles, most backyard birders swear by offering grape jelly.
What Kind of Grape Jelly Do Orioles Like?
Any brand of grape jelly will work. You can buy a special jelly feeder, but any shallow container will work. Birds & Blooms reader LuAnn Crim says, “You can feed orioles cheap grape jelly in small tuna-sized cans or Miracle Whip lids. Just fasten the container DOWN, or they’ll knock it right to the ground.”
- EXPERT TIP: You can mix the grape jelly with water to make it stretch a bit farther. Combine one part grape jelly to one part water in your blender and mix until it has the consistency of thick juice. Also try this special oriole nectar recipe.
Orioles Like the Color Orange—and Oranges
Orange halves and slices are a favorite oriole treat. Most oriole feeders include a way to offer oranges to orioles. Some people find that orioles don’t feed from them, but most have observed that at least having the color orange on your feeder will help to attract them. Reader Diane B. notes, “Make sure your feeder has an orange color on it. I usually make sure the roof is orange so they see it as they fly over.”
How to Keep Ants Away from Oriole Feeders
Set orange halves in a shallow dish of water to discourage ants. Change out your orange halves every day. They dry out quickly and can grow mold, which is harmful to birds.
Orioles Drink Hummingbird Nectar
How to Make Oriole Food
- EXPERT TIP: You can buy nectar feeders made just for orioles, but as long as your hummingbird feeder offers perches around the edge, there’s no need for separate feeders unless one species starts chasing off the other.
Feed Orioles Mealworms in Summer
Once nesting season begins, orioles change their food source to insects, which provide more protein and nutritional value. Orioles love caterpillars in the wild. You can offer mealworms as an alternative in your own backyard, presented in an open dish.
- EXPERT TIP: Use your oriole feeder’s grape jelly dish to offer mealworms once nesting season begins.
Psst—here’s how to identify baby orioles and juvenile orioles.
Do Orioles Eat Suet?
Orioles may also visit suet feeders during nesting season. And some backyard birders in southern states report seeing orioles on their suet feeders in winter. Try these orange flavored suet cakes. But generally, you’ll have more luck attracting these birds with oranges, sugar water and jelly.
Start Early to Feed Orioles and Don’t Give Up
- EXPERT TIP: Orioles begin arriving in April in the southern states and in May farther north.
Learn more about Baltimore oriole migration.