A bright flash of orange and a sweet warble of song makes orioles welcome in many yards, but these birds can be notoriously shy and challenging to attract even to the most bird-friendly yard. By understanding orioles' unique needs and preferences, however, it is easier than many birders realize to bring these beautiful songbirds back for regular visits.
Types of Orioles
There are several oriole species, but depending on their range and each species' habits, some are more likely backyard guests than others. Baltimore orioles, with their bold black hoods and bright orange underparts, are the most widespread, outgoing, and familiar orioles, followed closely by their western cousins, the bullock's orioles. The orchard oriole is a darker, burnt orange oriole common in the southeastern United States, while the hooded and Scott's orioles are southwestern visitors.
No matter which species, however, all orioles share similar preferences for food, water, and shelter. Meeting their needs is a sure way to create an oriole-friendly yard these birds can't resist.
Attracting Orioles with Food
A rich food supply is the best way to attract any bird. For orioles, that means catering to their sweet tastes. These birds adore nectar and will happily visit large nectar feeders offering the same sugar water solution that hummingbirds prefer. Jelly is another oriole favorite, and any grape, apple, raspberry, or strawberry jam or jelly, as well as orange marmalade, can be a tempting treat. No sugar-free options should be offered to orioles, however, as they do not contain the nutrition orioles need, and the extra additives could be dangerous for the birds.
Orioles don't typically visit seed feeders, which is great for birders who prefer a neat garden without spilled seed, discarded hulls, or unwanted sprouts. They will occasionally munch on suet , however, especially if it has bits of fruit in the blend. Suet is especially important early in spring, as it is a high-energy food perfect for cooler nights.
Providing abundant natural food by planting trees, bushes, flowers, and shrubs is another great way to attract orioles and make your yard an inviting environment. Insects are essential protein for orioles, so plant or retain native trees and shrubs that support native insects and eliminate pesticides to help ensure your hungry backyard birds have bugs to hunt. Berry bushes are another great option which provide bountiful fruit to tempt orioles.
Offering additional fruit at feeders can also attract orioles. These birds will happily munch on orange halves, slices, or chunks, and they won't say no to crushed grapes or berries either. Peaches, apples, and even bananas can all give orioles a sweet bite. As with any bird feeding station, the greater the variety of foods available, the more birds will be tempted to enjoy the buffet.
Water for Orioles
Providing fresh, clean water is another easy way to attract orioles. These birds are attracted by splashing, sparkling water, so a clean basin with some movement from a fountain, dripper, or bubbler will catch their attention the most. Shallower basins no more than 2-3 inches deep are best to allow these birds good bathing depth without being too deep for comfort. Ground-level or pedestal baths are best, as orioles don't care for hanging baths that might swing or sway. As with any bird bath, the basin should be cleaned regularly to keep it fresh and bright.
No birds will visit feeders or baths if they don't feel safe doing so. Because orioles can be shy, they will feel most secure if there is a thicket-like place nearby for a quick retreat. Leafy, deciduous trees and bushes are best, especially if they are planted in layers for more cover. Cottonwood, oak, and poplar trees are oriole favorites, as are fruit trees that provide sweet buds for an extra snack. Adding some extra berry bushes around the base of trees will give orioles even more cover and food options.
More Easy Tricks to Attract Orioles
Even with plenty of food, fresh water, and thick shelter available, it may take time for orioles to realize a yard is perfect for their needs. To catch their attention and make them even more comfortable, try…
- Keeping an oriole feeding station in a quiet, secluded corner of the yard.
- Planting orange flowers near the feeding station.
- Choosing oriole-friendly feeders with larger perches to accommodate these larger birds.
- Putting oriole feeders out in mid-March and keeping them out until late fall to attract the earliest and latest migrating orioles.
Orioles are beautiful, dynamic birds that can be a great pleasure to see in the yard. By understanding their personalities and preferences, birders can make an oriole-friendly oasis to attract these birds for visits time and again.
If you are looking to stock up on seed before more birds show up this spring, find a store near you that sells Kaytee Wild Bird Seed.