How Do I Attract Orioles?
There are two oriole species that can be found in our area, the Baltimore Oriole and the Orchard Oriole. The Baltimore is much more common and most likely to visit your backyard. The right food, water, and nesting material can make your yard more attractive to these visiting beauties!
Orioles can be attracted with several types of food: nectar, jelly, orange halves, and mealworms. Oriole Feeders are designed to feed one or a combination of these food items.
Nectar for orioles can be made the same as you would for hummingbirds. Mix 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. Stir until dissolved. DO NOT add food coloring. DO NOT use honey or sugar substitutes. Be sure to keep the nectar fresh and change the nectar in the feeder every couple of days. You may see suggestions to make oriole nectar weaker - 1 part sugar to 6 parts water. If you offer both hummingbird and oriole feeders, the orioles often end up going after the stronger solution in the hummingbird feeder and ignoring the weaker one in the oriole feeder. The 1 to 4 solution is safe for the orioles and will save you time.
Grape jelly is the most popular food orioles consume, from the time they return to the day they depart. If you offer only one type of food for orioles, we highly suggest you offer jelly. Grape is traditionally the most common flavor offered to orioles, although other flavors of jelly will be accepted by them, too, especially blackberry and raspberry. Do not use jam or other preserves.
Orioles will consume a lot of fruit when they first return to the area. Orange halves are usually offered, although they will accept other citrus fruits and watermelons. Usually after mid-May, orioles in our area tend to ignore fruit offerings, so don't over buy on those oranges.
Mealworms are a high protein food that can keep orioles returning to your feeder when they have young on the nest.
Orioles depend on insects as a major part of their diet - young orioles are fed nothing but insects during the first several weeks of their lives. DO NOT use pesticides or chemical lawn care if you want to attract orioles. These harmful chemicals remove the insects these birds need to survive and successfully breed.
Orioles will visit water features in your yard to drink and bathe. If you are offering jelly, which can get messy, orioles will definitely enjoy a water source where they can clean up! Consider adding a water feature with movement to attract the orioles to your yard.
Orioles like to place their nests in tall deciduous trees that border an open area (lawn, field, street, beach, etc). Nests are generally located at the end of branches. Orioles construct their nests out of long fibers, weaving with their beak impressive hanging baskets out of both natural plant fibers and man-made string. Tall grasses and other fiberous plant stalks in your garden will provide orioles with natural nesting material. To supplement these, you can also provide natural material like untreated pet fur or alpaca wool for orioles to line their nests with. Do not offer string or lint.
Oriole Activity Cycle
Orioles are not quite as predictable as hummingbirds in their activities during their brief stay here, but the following pattern has been noticed over recent years. Orioles return to our area about May 1st. The first couple weeks of May are usually very active weeks - with orioles visiting feeders in droves. Some of these birds continue north, into Canada, while others will set up breeding territories around here. If our spring is cold and rainy, orioles are more likely to visit feeders longer, because the insects they depend on as a natural food source are less plentiful in those conditions. A warm spring generally results in fewer orioles at the feeder as they stick to the treetops, gleaning insects off the leaves and branches.
After May, oriole activity in your yard can vary. Some people still get them coming in while others will not see them again until the following spring. Orioles nest during June, and their diet is almost completely dependent on insects at this point. Offering mealworms at this time may help entice orioles back into your yard.
Once the young leave the nest in late June/early July, they may be brought to oriole feeders by their parents. As more orioles learn to recognize oriole feeders as an easy source of food each year, we see more adult orioles engaging in this activity. Young orioles that are brought into feeders are more likely to recognize feeders in future years as a good place to eat. In recent years, jelly feeders seem to get a lot of feeding activity during the summer.
Orioles leave early. Baltimore Orioles from our region usually leave in August, heading east into the mountains before making the long journey south. Oriole migration wraps up fairly quickly in our area, often done by late August or early September.
For more on attracting orioles to your yard, visit us today!