Orioles are beloved birds. Although they can be difficult to see while foraging up in the branches, getting a sight of these dazzling golden and beautifully marked birds will excite any bird lover.
Even better is to see one in your own yard and to give you the best chance of doing that, I’m going to run you through the natural diet of the oriole and teach you a few things about what they eat and how best to feed and attract them.
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What Do Orioles Eat In The Wild?
Wild orioles have a varied diet. All of the 7 species of orioles native to the United States are omnivorous, which means they eat animal and plant foods, much like myself, although I prefer hamburgers to mealworms.
Insects are the most important food source for these birds and they will eat a variety of creepy crawlies including spiders, flies, wasps, snails, grasshoppers, ants, worms, beetles, and they especially enjoy caterpillars. These bugs are usually caught in the foliage of trees and bushes but sometimes they also hunt on the ground and they can even catch flying insects out of the air.
Orioles also feed on fruits and berries, and Baltimore orioles can sometimes be a pest in farming areas where they really go to town on raspberries, mulberries, cherries, and other fruits. Nectar, flowers, and some seeds are also eaten.
How To Attract Orioles
Let’s start by getting to know the four types of orioles that are most likely to turn up in your yard, depending on which part of the country you live in of course. These birds, of the Icterid family, are usually seen on their own, hunting for bugs.
1. Baltimore orioles can be common in towns and often favor elm trees. They feed by searching trees and bushes for insects. Their nests are usually built 20-30ft above the ground. These birds breed throughout much of the eastern United States.
2. The Orchard oriole is a small, dark-colored bird that can be common in leafy suburbs. These migratory birds are often seen in flocks.
They feed on insects, especially caterpillars, in much the same way as the Baltimore oriole, but they also eat berries and are attracted to flowers, where they feast on nectar and parts of the flower. These birds also nest in trees or shrubs, 10-20ft above ground.
Like other orioles, these birds feed mainly on insects that they find in trees and bushes, but will also forage on the ground sometimes. These birds also enjoy fruits and berries.
4. Hooded orioles love palm trees and can often be found in suburban areas where these trees are planted. These birds are only found in the American southwest but can be common there in the summer breeding season.
Hooded orioles feed on insects, berries, and nectar and will often visit nectar feeders to drink sugar water.
Both Audubon’s and Scott’s orioles will also readily visit bird feeders, although you’re less likely to have those birds in your neighborhood.
Now that we know what orioles eat in the wild, how can we feed them at home? Well, there are two ways of doing it. Like so often in life, there’s a fast, easy way and a more challenging but rewarding route.
The easy way is to put out food in a good quality feeder and enjoy watching the birds arrive in no time. The alternative is to design your garden in a way that attracts and feeds these birds without any effort from you.
Wondering which way of attracting orioles to choose? Well, that’s easy, I’d say do both!
If you’re like me, and you want to be sure you have the best chance of seeing your favorite birds, get yourself a bird feeder and hang it in a leafy tree, or a good quality bird feeder pole if you think the local squirrels and raccoons are fat enough.
I like the feeders that allow a variety of different foods to be set out because this gives you the best chance of attracting an oriole or three.
Now that you have your feeder/s hanging up, put out these foods to attract orioles:
- Fruits, especially oranges
- Grape jelly
- Sugar water or nectar mixes
We grow our own mealworms at home but not everyone has time for this so you can always buy some live or freeze-dried mealworms at a local pet store or online.
The sugar water you use in your nectar feeders should be a simple mixture of 1 part sugar to 4 parts boiled water. Don’t be tempted to add any sort of food dyes, it does more harm than good.
Another important point to mention is that you should change your sugar water in the feeder every 2-3 days to keep it from spoiling. Fruits shouldn’t be left to go moldy on your feeder, because that isn’t healthy for the birds, yuck!
At this point, you’re all set to attract Baltimore orioles or any of the other species to your yard.
The Best Oriole Feeder
There are many varieties of Oriole feeders on the market. The best are durable, easy to clean and have a place for a variety of foods. Like many other birds, orioles are attracted to bright colors, especially orange, so a bird feeder that incorporates that color is a great start.
Orioles struggle to drink from nectar feeders designed for hummingbirds because of their larger, thicker beaks, so consider buying a nectar feeder designed specifically for orioles. Hummingbirds will be able to drink from your oriole feeder as well so you don’t have to feel like anyone is being left out.
Create An Oriole-Friendly Yard
If you want to see orioles at home, year after year, you should start by growing plants that provide these birds with a natural food source and nesting sites. Plants that produce wild fruits and berries and attract insects, particularly caterpillars are the best.
Great plants to grow to attract orioles include fruiting trees and bushes like crabapples and raspberry bushes. The Hooded orioles especially love palm trees, so if you live down in the southwest, consider planting one in your yard.
An added bonus is that many of the same orange-flowering plants that attract hummingbirds will attract orioles, and if you enjoy seeing orioles, I bet you like hummers too. Trumpet vines will provide a great natural nectar source for these colorful birds.
Food isn’t the only way to attract these beautiful birds, orioles definitely love a shallow water source. Keep the water fresh and you may be lucky enough to watch these dazzling birds bathing and drinking in your yard.
Orioles make some of the most interesting and beautiful nests in the bird kingdom. They prefer building their nests in elm, cottonwoods, and maple trees, so consider planting these, and with a little patience, someday you may have your own family of orioles reared in your own yard!
Follow these tips and enjoy attracting orioles to your yard, and feeding them healthy foods that will keep them coming back. Happy birding!