Orioles are some of the most striking birds in the perching bird family you can find. And it’s no surprise that birdwatchers everywhere are wanting to learn how to attract orioles to their backyard to enjoy their melodious songs.
There are 33 species of orioles in the New World. They all look alike and behave similarly. The Baltimore oriole is probably the one of which you are most familiar because of the major league baseball team of the same name.
Other birds in the same genus include:
- Orchard oriole
- Audubon oriole
- Spot-breasted oriole
- Bullock’s oriole
- Hooded oriole
- Altamira oriole
- Scott’s oriole
Table of Contents
Description and Identification
The oriole is a medium-sized bird about the size of a robin. The males are most distinctive with its brilliant orange underside contrasting with its black back and head. They also have white bars on their wings, which you can see when they are in flight.
The female is drab by comparison with a dull brownish-yellow color on its belly and a gray back. It also has white bars on its wings.
Both sexes have a silver, pointy bill, and the same color legs and feet. Interestingly, males don’t get their brightly colored plumage until they are two years old.
A Day in the Life of an Oriole
Learning how to attract orioles to your backyard begins with understanding their lifestyle and needs, along with knowing their ranges and habitats.
Some species are rare sightings outside of southern Texas. However, you’ll see the Bullock’s oriole in the western portion of the United States. The orchard and Baltimore orioles are common sights east of the Mississippi River and the hooded and Scott’s orioles call the Southwest home.
They are migratory birds and will spend their winters farther south into Central America and Mexico. Their habitats vary with where you find them.
Most birds prefer open forests and like to hang out around the edges of habitats, which provides them with a wider selection of foods and nesting places. Though, you won’t typically see them in dense woods.
They are well-adapted to humans and will live in populated areas, parks, and agricultural land. And if you reside in the city, they will have no problem living in your suburban backyard.
Providing the Right foods for Orioles
Feeding birds is a great all-American pastime with over 52 million people participating in this activity. The joy of bringing nature to your home is hard to beat. Fortunately, orioles make it easy to do.
These birds have a varied, omnivore diet that follows the seasons and the availability of different foodstuffs. Their favorite foods are fruits and berries. Orioles have an insatiable sweet tooth.
They’ll expand their diet to include a wide range of foods including:
If you’ve had an issue with a few of these pests, you’ll welcome orioles to your home with open arms. These birds won’t limit themselves to wild plants, making it easy to attract them with the right enticements.
Because they feed on nectar, orioles also act as essential pollinators. With this background, let’s move onto inviting them home to your yard.
Getting Clues from Their Feeding Behaviors
As you may surmise, orioles aren’t picky eaters. In fact, they eat some insects that other birds won’t touch. The trick is to draw them to your yard early in the spring when the males have returned from their migration grounds.
The timing, of course, depends on where you live, considering orioles won’t return to the Upper Midwest until late April or early May.
Landscaping for Orioles
You have a lot of latitude with the plants you select to entice orioles to your yard. Not surprisingly, orioles gravitate to the color orange. Orioles and hummingbirds like the same things, so don’t be shocked if you see other nectar-feeding birds.
Several flowers make an ideal attractant for both orioles and hummingbirds. The common denominator is the color, which you can extend to red and yellow, as well, just as long as they are tubular in shape.
Some excellent choices include:
- Bee balm
- Cardinal flower
- Indian paintbrush
You can also add some nectar-producing shrubs and vines to your landscaping to make your backyard irresistible. Plants you can add are:
- Trumpet vine
- Coral bean
- Native grapes
- Blueberry bushes
Several trees are also favored by orioles and can entice them to pay a visit. Many produce fruit that other birds like warblers and tanagers will also enjoy. If you have space, consider adding any of the following:
- Mountain ash
Orioles prefer taller, deciduous trees for nesting places, especially American elm. We’d recommend adding both shrubs and trees to your backyard if possible to provide shelter. You can also choose plants that will provide nesting material, such as pussy willow and cottonwood.
Orioles build a pouch for a nest with grass, twigs, and whatever they can find. They have up to six chicks in a brood with both parents taking care of the young and feeding them. They’ll fledge in about 14 days.
With all of these plant species we discussed, you have a wide selection of choices for making your yard oriole-friendly. Let’s move onto more ways to attract these birds.
People Foods and Other Treats that Orioles Enjoy
You can also entice these songbirds with other foods from your home. One of their favorites things to eat is oranges.
You can cut them in half and stick them through a sharp branch or put them in an oriole feeder designed for this purpose. Seeds, on the other hand, are not on the menu for this bird.
A better option is to hang a hummingbird feeder filled with the same nectar that you’d offer them. We’d suggest placing it away from your house because of the other unwanted guests it may lure like bees and wasps.
Proteins from insects are an essential part of an oriole’s diet too. To satisfy this need, you can put out either live or freeze-dried mealworms in a platform feeder. You can also add some cut-up fruit such as apples or even some dark-fruit jelly.
Alternatively, you can hang a suet block, preferably one with fruit in it. Be sure to use a feeder meant for this purpose so that unwanted visitors don’t make off with it.
A Reliable Water Source
Flying takes a lot of energy for a bird. Therefore, it makes sense that orioles get everything they need from one place.
Your landscaping covers food and shelter. The other thing that orioles — and all wildlife, for that matter — need is water. Many animals and birds get it from the moisture content of their food. However, they also like to splash around in it.
A birdbath or other water feature is an ideal way to spruce up your backyard while making it more enticing for orioles. Adding a heater or bubbler will ensure it’s available year-round for other birds that will rely on it.
A waterfall or pond will work, too. The birds may be less reluctant to use it since it may appear more natural to them.
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Benefits of Having Resident Orioles
Attracting birds and wildlife to your home is rewarding and the proverbial win-win for everyone involved. It’s also an excellent learning opportunity for both you and your children.
Your kids can experience nature and parenting up close, providing valuable lessons that no book could provide. It also teaches them responsibility for maintaining fresh food and water for your charges.
Other benefits are intangible like the peace and serenity of hearing the orioles songs every day. Some may even consider it therapeutic.
Orioles are relatively long-lived for a songbird. The efforts you take now to encourage them to visit your yard will continue for years to come.
Troubleshooting Problems When Attracting Orioles
Sometimes, even the best of plans go awry. When dealing with birds and wildlife, there is always the wild card. You can control for some things and others, not so much.
The main factors that affect whether or not orioles will take up residence in your yard include:
- Too much activity with pets and people
- Not enough suitable shelter
- Insufficient food or water
- An active predator
The first three are fixable by tweaking your landscaping and setting ground rules for your kids and pets. Experiment with different foods to find ones that the orioles enjoy the most. And keep up with regular feeding.
The last one on the above list is tricky and often difficult to prevent. Predation is a fact of life, even with the songbirds you’ll attract to your yard.
Inevitably, you may lose a bird to a crow, barn owl, or Cooper’s hawk. Unfortunately, the things that would deter a predator will cause the same reaction with the orioles.
Our advice is to provide plenty of cover to make your yard a sanctuary so that the orioles can escape the watchful eyes of a raptor. And if you have a cat, keep it indoors.
Believe it or not, they are the number one enemy of all songbirds and not just orioles. Domestic and feral felines take an estimated 4 billion birds each year.
They say build it, and they will come. The adage also applies to pests like ants, squirrels, and other mammals when you set the table for orioles.
The best way to keep the interlopers under control is to keep it clean. Place fruits and other treats out in the morning and pick them up at night when other animals come out to scavenge.
You may find it helpful to put foods like jelly on a paper plate that you can quickly discard to make the job easier. The birds may even pick up on the timing of when you feed them and finish eating with no mess.
However, you should avoid using pesticides to get the marauders under control. Orioles eat a variety of insects and often a lot at one feeding. Harmful chemicals can accumulate in their bodies from the bugs they eat and kill them.
Instead, embrace prevention to avoid any issues with using these products. That includes keeping the rest of your yard free from the things that would attract pests.
Keep the trash in a wildlife-proof garbage can, preferably in the garage. Likewise, feed the pets indoors instead of outside where it could lure rodents closer to your dwelling.
You can keep squirrels out of your bird feeders by placing a baffle underneath it to keep them from getting a free meal on you.
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Additional Tips for Attracting Orioles
Don’t be too disappointed if orioles don’t visit your yard after all of your hard work. Sometimes, it takes time for them to spot all the plants and other additions you’ve made to your backyard.
To help increase your chances, we recommend the following tips to tip the scales in your favor.
- Make the area of your yard that the orioles are actively using a pet and people-free zone so that they’ll feel more at ease.
- Be consistent with your feeding to encourage them to stay.
- Add brightly colored decorative elements to your landscaping that can also make your yard more inviting to orioles.
- Choose plants that bloom at different times to ensure that the birds have a reliable food source throughout the season.
- Rinse out the birdbath and provide fresh water daily.
- Provide a variety of foodstuffs to keep them coming back to your yard.
How to Attract Orioles to Your Backyard: The Last Word
The beauty and delightful songs of this songbird are well worth the effort to invite them to your home. They’ll reward you with a ready pest killer that will only cost you a bag of oranges and a suet block.
Learning how to attract orioles to your backyard is an excellent way to add color to your landscaping theme with all the benefits that these birds will bring to your home and your well-being.