Feeding Orioles: What Do Orioles Eat?
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.
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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
Courtesy 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.
- 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?
Courtesy 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 Kaufman 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.”
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.
Via 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Do Orioles Use Hummingbird Feeders?
Orioles visit my hummingbird feeders and make a real mess. How can I get them to use the oriole feeder instead? asks Bonnie Ramsburg of Grantsville, Maryland.
Kenn and Kimberly: We’ve yet to find an oriole feeder that orioles prefer to hummingbird feeders. We didn’t want to give up feeding both kinds of birds, so we found another approach. To avoid having all of our precious sugar water dumped on the ground by marauding orioles, we simply bought the type of hummingbird feeder that comes with a large glass bottle for the sugar water. This glass reservoir will hold nearly 4 cups of nectar, and the heft of it—no matter how much you fill it—is enough to keep the feeder hanging evenly under the weight of the hungriest oriole!
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
- 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
- EXPERT TIP: Orioles begin arriving in April in the southern states and in May farther north. Learn more about Baltimore oriole migration.