Orioles are amazing wild birds. Despite the familiarity of their brilliant plumage and how widespread their ranges can be, many birders find it challenging to attract orioles. With the right incentives that meet these birds’ needs, however, you can bring orioles to your yard with ease.
The Orioles You Can–and Can’t–Attract
There are more than 60 oriole species in the world, but only nine are regular residents and guests in the United States and Canada: the Baltimore, Bullock’s, hooded, orchard, Scott’s, Altamira, Audubon’s, spot-breasted, and streak-backed orioles. Not all of those, however, are likely to be found in yards or gardens.
The Baltimore oriole, the most familiar in eastern North America, is easily attracted to feeding stations. As is its western counterpart, the Bullock’s oriole. Did you know the Baltimore and Bullock’s orioles were considered the same species, the northern oriole, from 1973-1995?
See also: Flower Colors that Attract Birds
The orchard oriole, another eastern species, is also fairly easy to attract. You can distinguish it from the Baltimore oriole by its darker, brick-orange-red plumage compared to the Baltimore’s much brighter, classic orange shade.
In the southwestern United States and Mexico, the Scott’s oriole with its yellow and black plumage, as well as the hooded oriole with its smaller face mask and more colorful yellow head, can be easily seen and will occasionally visit feeders. The hooded oriole is also in western and central California.
The remaining oriole species have much more restricted ranges. They tend to be shier and less likely to visit backyards. If your yard is very oriole-friendly, however, and you live in any oriole’s typical range and preferred habitat, it is possible to welcome one of these colorful songbirds for regular visits.
What do Orioles Eat?
The best way to attract orioles is with abundant food sources. It’s surprisingly easy to add orioles’ favorite treats to your landscaping. These birds prefer sweet foods and eat a wide range of fruits and berries, as well as sip nectar from larger flowers. Planting berry bushes and fruit trees similar to those that will attract waxwings is a great option for attracting orioles. Blackberries, elderberries, mulberries, and huckleberries are just a few of their favorites, and they will also visit cherry and dogwood trees. Similarly, planting flowers that attract hummingbirds can also attract orioles. Trumpet vines can be successful at attracting both hummingbirds and orioles.
See also: How to Attract Waxwings
Feeding Orioles with Bird Feeders
Orioles will also visit feeding stations that offer their favorite supplemental foods: nectar, jelly, and fruit. Larger nectar feeders with perches are essential for these songbirds. Most oriole nectar feeders have larger reservoirs to accommodate their hearty appetites. You can offer jelly in small dishes or from special jelly feeders. Fruit is another favorite for orioles at feeders, especially crushed grapes, orange halves, and banana slices. You can offer fruit in a dish, on a platform or tray feeder, or any surface.
See also: 10 Best Foods for Bird Feeding
Like all birds, orioles need a rich source of protein in spring and summer. Their hungry nestlings require proper nutrition for healthy growth and development. Minimizing or eliminating pesticides in the yard will ensure plentiful insects. Orioles will also take both live and dried mealworms from feeders.
In winter, most North American orioles migrate to central and South America. In southern states, birders may be able to welcome these colorful birds year-round. Where orioles do spend the winter, they will often take suet from feeding areas, especially if you offer the suet in shreds or small chunks instead of larger blocks.
Orioles at Bird Baths
Orioles will readily visit bird baths for drinking and bathing. Because these larger songbirds average 7-10 inches in length, they require larger baths as comfortable water sources. A broad basin 1-2 inches deep is ideal. Keep the water clean and fresh at all times. Bird baths with orange decorations or accents, or even simple terra cotta dishes, will help attract orioles. Adding a dripper to the water will also create gentle splashes and ripples to attract orioles’ attention to the water source. Ideally, you should position bird baths for orioles in more sheltered, qui,et areas so these birds can feel secure whenever they visit.
All birds need shelter at night and whenever poor weather may strike. Orioles are shy and solitary, and will prefer leafy deciduous trees and dense shrubbery. Native varieties of oak, elm, sycamore, and maple trees are best. These are also the types of trees orioles prefer for nesting. Planting oriole-friendly landscaping in clumps and thicket-like areas will be most effective at attracting these birds and helping them feel safe and secure in your yard. If possible, opt for fruiting trees and berry-producing shrubs for all your oriole-friendly landscaping to do double duty as both shelter and a natural, familiar food source.
More Tips and Tricks for Attracting Orioles
It can take quite some time to attract orioles. But, once they find your oriole-friendly yard they will keep returning year after year. If haven’t had luck attracting them to your yard, try these additional tactics:
- Minimize pruning trees and shrubs to provide more natural shelter rather than a heavily cultivated appearance. The more naturalized the landscaping, the more at ease orioles will be.
- Plant orange flowers around oriole feeding stations and in areas that are easily visible from the air. Orioles are naturally attracted to the color orange.
- Create a separate oriole area away from other busy bird feeders. Orioles are shy and spook easily. A quieter, more isolated feeding station will be more attractive to them.
- Put out oriole feeders as early as mid-March to attract early migrating orioles, and leave the feeders up until late fall so any stragglers can learn about your yard as a reliable food resource.
- Orioles are fun and colorful birds to welcome to your yard, and the more techniques you use for attracting these birds, the sooner you’ll see them take advantage of your oriole-friendly resources.