How to Attract Orioles to Your Yard: Creating the Ideal Feeding & Nesting Site

by Lindsay Pereira
How to attract Oriole birds to your yard

With various gorgeous colorations and a unique nest-building style, Orioles are by far one of the most sought-after backyard visitors. However, orioles, which are part of the blackbird family, are also known to be somewhat elusive due to their very particular habits. While some folks struggle year after year to attract these feathered friends, others seem to have a knack for enticing them to their property.

So, what does it take to make these elusive flyers show up in your yard? Check out the following oriole-attracting tips to entice Orioles of all kinds to your home!

A few fast facts about Orioles …

  • Though females are indeed attractive, it is the males of the species that have a brighter hue to their plumage. 
  • Throughout the USA, you can find nine different types of Orioles. However, only five of these types are regularly spotted. 
  • Different types of Orioles are more common in some areas of the States than others. The Hooded and Scott’s Oriole are widespread in the Southwest, while the extreme Southern edge of Florida or Texas is home to the other less common Oriole species. In the West you’ll normally see the Bullock’s Orioles, and in the East, you’ll spy Orchard and Baltimore Orioles. 
  • Wintertime for the Orioles is usually spent in Mexico, Central, and South America, where a steady source of nectar, fruits, and insects are aplenty. In early Spring, they’ll migrate North to nest. Then, at some time in August, they’ll start their trek South to migrate. 
  • Typically, Orioles build their nests at the end of tall, deciduous tree branches, a structure that is woven together with plant fibers, string or yarn and is distinctly shaped like a gourd. 
  • It can often take Orioles up to 12 days to make a hanging, sac-shaped nest. This unique construction, and precarious positioning, is meant to protect eggs and hatchlings from nest robbers and other climbing predators. 

Keep the following suggestions in mind to create an attractive backyard area for Orioles.

Start early in the season to attract Orioles 

Before you expect Orioles to migrate back to your area for the summer season, which normally happens at the beginning of April through May, place several appropriate feeders out a few weeks in advance to attract them. If they don’t see them when returning to the area, they’re unlikely to circle back to your yard. As such, the key to successfully attracting Orioles is to have the feeders outside, set and ready for their arrival. 

Understanding the Oriole diet

As Orioles don’t eat seeds – they feed exclusively on insects, fruit, and nectar – they will not visit a traditional seed feeder. To attract them to your backyard, you’ll need to entice them with food they’ll enjoy by means of offering pre-made concentrate or homemade nectar, fruit, jellies, and mealworms. 

What Orioles eat in summer and fall?

Though insects are their favorite meal, in the summer and fall, Orioles typically look for berries, fleshy fruits, and plant foods. Among these, they enjoy such delights as figs, nuts, mountain ash, cherries, brambles, serviceberries, and mulberries. 

What Orioles eat in the winter?

In the winter, while visiting their tropical habitat after migration, Orioles seek out various flowering trees to feed on nectar. After their springtime return to the USA, they’re normally attracted to nectar feeders, which is a backyard feature that draws great success for those hoping to entice Orioles. 

What Orioles eat in nesting season?

Once nesting season starts, Orioles like to feed on caterpillars and other insects. They also feed their hatchlings these yummy grubs, which are an excellent source of protein and have a high nutritional value. Although you’ll have a hard time finding those for your feathered guests, a great replacement to offer is mealworms.

Feeders – A sure-fire way to attract Orioles to your yard

Best feeders for Oriole birds

What’s interesting about the Oriole is its varied diet. Since it eats so many different things – insects, fruit, and nectar – a sure-fire way to attract Orioles to your yard is to provide feeders that offer these meals. Fruit, suet, jelly, mealworms, and nectar feeders are several kinds of additions you may want to consider for your property. Now, while you can install various kinds of feeders, each one serving a specific food, you can also opt for one feeder that provides a multipurpose function. 

Where to place feeders?

When it comes to choosing the right spot in your yard to place your feeder, the key to success is to essentially ‘think like a bird.’ That’s to say, the best location is out in the open, which can be easily spotted by birds flying overhead. As such, select a spot that’s clearly accessible, instead of hiding the feeder under a tree or awning. 

A great location to place Oriole feeders is near a birdbath, however, with some exceptions, which we talk about later on in this post. Since these lovely birds are attracted by the sound and sight of moving water, adding a feeder nearby creates an ideal environment for the birds.

Nectar feeders

Much like hummingbirds, Orioles enjoy the sweet, sugary liquid placed inside nectar feeders. However, these smaller feeders tend to be too difficult for Orioles to use, since they don’t hover like hummingbirds. Sometimes, while trying to get to the tasty sugar-water, Orioles may end up knocking a nectar feeder down, spilling its contents and possibly damaging it. Avoid this scenario by purchasing nectar feeders that have built-in perches to give Orioles a spot to land and drink. One popular feeder for Orioles is the First Nature 3088 feeder.

Offer the right kind of nectar

Making the sugar-water mixture is fairly simple, though the kind that the Orioles prefer is slightly different than what hummingbirds drink.

To make the mixture for Orioles:

  • boil 3 cups of water,
  • then add ½ cup sugar slowly,
  • and stir it in well until it dissolves. 

Allow the mixture to cool completely before filling your feeder.

Mealworm feeders

Once nesting season starts, Orioles like to feed on caterpillars and other insects. They also feed their hatchlings these yummy grubs, which are an excellent source of protein and have a high nutritional value. Although you’ll have a hard time finding those for your feathered guests, a great replacement to offer is mealworms.

Suet feeders

Suet, as well, is well-liked at nesting time too. The C&S High Energy Suet for Wild Birds is another trusted product for Orioles. The C&S EZ Fill Suet Basket is a basic, cost-effective model that is best-rated and works very well. As an alternative to a specialized suet feeder, you can also use an open dish.

Grape jelly feeder

Without a doubt, you’ll likely lure a flock of Orioles with one tried-and-true sweet treat: grape jelly! You can pretty much use any jelly you find, however the more popular one suggested by Oriole enthusiasts is the Songbird Essentials BirdBerry Jelly.

There are several kinds of jelly feeders, though you’re likely going to want something that’s both easy to clean and simple for the birds to access. One top-rated model is the Perky-Pet Oriole Jelly Wild Bird Feeder.

A simple fix, if you’re looking to skip getting yet another feeder, is to use a clean, empty plastic lid or tuna can as a jelly feeder. However, make sure to fasten the container down or else it’ll get knocked over and scare the Orioles. 

Fruit feeders

Oriole birds love fruit

As it is a part of their regular diet, Orioles regularly seek out fruit to eat. Oranges and clementines, treats that these feathered friends truly enjoy, would offer a backyard feast that would certainly entice them to visit your home.

Consider getting a combination feeder that holds fruit, that offer a bigger holding capacity. As such, you can simply add a slice of orange or clementine to the feeder next to their mealworms or jelly, for instance, and thus maximize on backyard space. 

Provide adequate water sources

Orioles, as you can imagine, need drinking and bathing water just like any other birds. By offering a convenient water source, you’ll not only attract these songbirds to your yard but likely keep them coming back over and over again. However, be mindful of water depth, as it should never surpass 2 to 3 inches at its deepest point.

Keeping them coming back with moving water

Moving water positively mesmerizes Orioles. Add bubblers or drippers to birdbaths, as they love the movement and sound of it. As with feeders, baths need regular cleaning and filling. Dirty, stagnant or algae-filled water will ultimately drive Orioles away. Even if you have birdhouses and feeders on your property, an unsightly, unclean birdbath is enough to keep Orioles away for good. 

Where to install birdbaths

Gardens, landscapes, and yards are all unique, with distinctive ground and structural features. Because of this, it can be tricky to figure out the best spot for a bird bath. However, by considering the following factors, bird enthusiasts can evaluate the layout of their land and choose the most ideal position.

  • Size: The size and weight of the bath are critical when choosing placement. While a birdbath made from lighter materials may need shelter from strong winds to prevent tipping, a heavier, possibly concreate structure could sink into soft soil, damage delicate plants or be difficult to move. 
  • Stability: Place birdbaths on level surfaces where they’re less likely to spill, fall or tip. Maximize water capacity and keep water depth even by ensuring the basin is level. Beneath the bath, use paving stones or gravel to provide a stable surface and level the ground if needed. 
  • Visibility: If the birds can’t see it, then they won’t use it. Select a spot that’s easily visible in the yard. Placing the bath near a feeder will assure it gets noticed when the birds come to eat. 
  • Cleanliness: As mentioned, an unattractive birdbath won’t garner attention. Avoid stationing them under shrubs or trees that shed fruits, seeds or bloom often. Likewise, though placing them near feeders are a good idea, if the bath is so close to them that they catch hulls or spilled seed – perhaps even feces – then a messy build-up will likely happen.
  • Water source: The closer it is to a faucet, the higher the chance you’ll have to keep the bath full, fresh, and clean. If there’s no choice but to place it away from a spigot, then make sure a hose can get to it without issue. As a last resort, you can always use a bucket, watering can or pitcher to clean it out and refill it. 
  • Shelter: Birds are less likely to use a birdbath if it’s too exposed. Therefore, place it near a tree or bush to offer coverage should they need to escape. Keep in mind, however, that the bath shouldn’t be too close – you want to avoid leaves and other such things from falling into it, while also ensuring hiding predators can’t easily attack them. 

Plant their favorite trees to encourage nesting

Oriole birds - favorite trees for nesting

American Elms were the preferred nesting tree for Orioles for countless decades. But because Dutch Elm Disease has decimated vast areas of these tress, Orioles are now choosing Cottonwoods and Maples instead, amongst others. Consider adding these to your backyard, which provides the birds with long slim branches to build their basket-shaped, hanging nests. 

Offer different types of nesting materials

The materials Orioles choose to create their nests can vary. Depending on where they decide to build a nest, female Orioles will often use what’s immediately available around the breeding site. From pieces off Joshua trees to cottonwood tree fluff, Orioles are truly resourceful. 

Offer them different types of materials to encourage them to nest in your yard. Set out a basket with any of the following popular nesting items to help them along:

  • Cattail fluff
  • Cloth strips
  • Cotton balls
  • Dead leaves
  • Dental floss
  • Feathers
  • Grass clippings or dead grass
  • Moss or lichen
  • Pine needles
  • Shredded paper
  • Straw or other plant stems
  • Twigs or sticks
  • Yarn, thread or string

Do you have Orioles in your yard? Let us know your tips and tricks!

If you’ve successfully attracted Orioles to your yard, comment below and let us know your tips and tricks to help out fellow bird lovers!

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