Feeding Orioles: What Do Orioles Eat?

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Orioles don't eat birdseed. Experts give tips on feeding orioles. Learn what foods orioles eat, and find the best oriole feeders to attract these birds.

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 attracting orioles to their backyard feeders, while others struggle year after year to bring these elusive flyers in. Learn what foods orioles eat and the best tips for feeding orioles.

What Foods Do Orioles Eat?

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.”

Here’s how to build your own DIY oriole feeders.

Feed Grape Jelly to Orioles

what do orioles eatCourtesy Lisa King

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. When feeding orioles, most backyard birders swear by offering grape jelly.

As a best practice, offer up grape jelly that doesn’t contain artificial sweeteners, colors or flavors. You can buy a special jelly feeder, but any shallow container will work. Birds & Blooms reader LuAnn Crim says, “You can feed orioles 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.

How Do Orioles Find Feeders?

feeding oriolesCourtesy Nancy Schanda

Baltimore orioles came to my feeder (above) within minutes of setting it up. How did they find it so quickly? asks Birds & Blooms reader Nancy Schanda.

Birding experts Kenn and Kimberly write, “We are often surprised at how rapidly birds show up when feeders are put out for the first time. Many kinds of birds seem to have developed an image in their minds of what certain types of feeders look like, and they recognize them even at a distance. In the case of your oriole visitors, they probably were somewhere nearby, even if you hadn’t seen them—they can be very inconspicuous among the foliage of trees—so it didn’t take them long to notice the feeders. Wild birds in general are highly observant of changes in their surroundings, especially those that involve potential food sources.”

How to Choose an Oriole Feeder

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 having the color orange on your feeder will help to attract these birds. 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.”

08 Bbxmay20 MosaicbirdsVia Mosaic Birds

Cottage Oriole Feeder

Give birds a home-away-from-home feeling as they gobble up jelly while being sheltered. Purchase multiple cottage oriole feeders to re-create this setup.

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08 Bbxmay20 Uncommongoods1Via Uncommon Goods

Birdie Fruit Feeder

Invite a flock of orioles to stop by for a bite when you hang up this multipronged fruit feeder. Learn about the 8 types of orioles in North America.

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oriole feederVia Amazon.com

Oriole Flower Feeder

Orioles can enjoy oranges and jelly on this beautiful feeder. We love the glittery orange heart at the top and the flower petal perches! Check out 8 surprising Baltimore oriole facts.

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08 Bbxmay20 Fleetfarm2Via Amazon.com

Clementine Oriole Feeder

Provide two feeding opportunities at once with this circular feeder that holds jelly (or mealworms, if you prefer) and oranges. It even looks like an orange slice! Learn how to identify orchard orioles.

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ultimate oriole feederVia Amazon.com

Ultimate Oriole Feeder

Offer the entire menu of orioles’ favorite foods in one bird feeder—oranges, jelly and sugar-water! Discover how orioles weave elaborate nests.

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Copper Vine Double Orange Feeder

This spiral-shaped copper wire orange holder will attract the birds and look attractive in your yard. When will Baltimore orioles arrive in spring?

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Oriolefeeder GardenerssupplyVia Gardener's Supply Co.

Flower Jelly Feeder

This beautiful oriole feeder looks like a big blooming flower. Just spoon some jelly into the glass bowl and watch the orioles flock to the feast. Check out 10 birds that look like orioles.

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copper oriole feederVia Walmart

Copper Umbrella Oriole Feeder

You’ll feel like Mary Poppins feeding the birds with this adorable umbrella shaped feeder. Fill it with jelly, mealworms, suet nuggets or other treats, and hook orange halves in the spiral hooks. The dome provides shade and protection to keep food fresher. Psst—orioles can’t resist this oriole nectar recipe.

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Perky Pet Oriole FeederVia Chewy.com

Perky-Pet Top-Fill Glass Oriole Feeder

Hummingbirds aren’t the only birds that like to drink sugar-water. This feeder is designed just for orioles, with larger perches and orange accents to catch their eye. As a bonus, this oriole feeder also includes a jelly cup and an orange spike. And it’s easy to fill and clean. Next, learn how to identify Bullock’s orioles.

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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.

Here’s how to use an ant moat for your hummingbird feeders.

How to Make Oriole Food

feeding orioles, oriole hummingbird feederCourtesy Ellen Griepentrog
Baltimore oriole on a hummingbird feeder
Orioles like the same sugar water your hummingbirds do, with the same ratio of sugar to water. Combine four parts hot water to one part sugar, and mix until the sugar is dissolved. Also try this special oriole nectar recipe.
Orioles will visit hummingbird feeders with built-in perches. They can’t hover like hummers do, so they need a place to land and drink. They are attracted to the color orange, so specific feeders have been designed to meet their needs.
  • 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 begin feeding orioles 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 feeding orioles with oranges, sugar water and jelly.

Start Feeding Orioles Early and Don’t Give Up

Probably the most important tip for feeding orioles in your yard is timing. Experts and amateurs alike note that it’s vital to have your oriole feeders out at least several weeks before you expect orioles in your area. If the birds don’t spot the feeders as soon as they arrive in the spring, they’re unlikely to start using them later. Birding expert Anne Schmauss notes that if you don’t catch orioles when they first begin arriving, you may not attract them at all that year. She also points out that it can take several years for orioles to begin visiting your yard, so patience is also key. Here’s the oriole species that birders should look for.

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Jill Staake
Jill lives in Tampa, Florida, and writes about gardening, butterflies, outdoor projects and birding. When she's not gardening, you'll find he reading, traveling and happily digging her toes into the sand on the beach.