How to Attract Orioles to Your Backyard

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

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How to Attract Orioles

Oriole are stunning birds, much anticipated by bird lovers. Even though males are brighter, female orioles are gorgeous fliers as well. Discover surprising Baltimore oriole facts.

“How do you attract orioles to a suburban backyard?” asks Katie Pauer of Gaithersburg, Maryland.

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

“The strategy for attracting orioles is similar no matter where you live. Start by offering fresh fruit—healthy food that they love. Oranges and grapes are
favorites. Many fruit feeders are available to purchase, but it can be as simple as slicing an orange in half and impaling the halves on a branch. Orioles also love sugar water, and there are feeders made specifically for them. If you plan to go the sugar-water route, make it yourself with 6 parts water to 1 part white sugar. Skip the orange dye and other ingredients—they’re not needed and could harm the birds. Orioles also love grape jelly, but it should be offered in limited amounts. Think of grape jelly as a treat rather than a meal,” write birding experts Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman.

Learn more about the foods orioles eat.

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

Put Out Oriole Feeders Early

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. Don’t make the same mistakes I did. Follow the tips below.

bullock's oriole birdCourtesy Karen Osadchey
Bullock’s oriole eating an orange

Expert Tips on Feeding Orioles

  • Start early. Your best chance of attracting orioles is when the birds first arrive in early spring.
  • Use the same sugar-water recipe for orioles as you do for hummingbirds. Keep sugar-water fresh, and don’t use food coloring. Orioles also can’t resist this oriole nectar recipe.
  • Oriole 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.
how to attract oriole, oriole nestCourtesy Sharlene Parr
Female Baltimore oriole near a nest

Look for Oriole Bird Nests in Summer

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 yards or other areas with tall deciduous trees. Learn how to identify juvenile and baby orioles.

“Every year I look forward to the time when the Baltimore orioles arrive for the season here in Illinois. Although I have seen several nests over the years, last year I was lucky enough to watch one of these skillful builders weave her masterpiece in a tree overhanging my yard. It took several days to complete and was a pleasure to witness,” says Sharlene Parr.

Discover how orioles weave elaborate nests and learn to identify Baltimore oriole eggs.

Your chance to see orioles at feeders or nesting 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.

Anne Schmauss
Anne Schamuss opened her Wild Birds Unlimited store in Santa Fe in the early 2000s, inspired by her sisters, Geni Krolick and Mary Schmauss, avid birders with a successful Wild Birds franchise in Albuquerque. Schmauss started sharing her birding knowledge in a weekly column for The Santa Fe New Mexican. She has written two books, including a monthly guide to attracting backyard birds. In January, Schmauss sold her shop, turned the column over, and set off for a life of travel (when it’s possible) and relaxation, where she hopes to see many birds.