Whether Baltimore, Bullock’s, orchard, hooded, or one of the other species of orioles that regularly visit North America, these brightly colored birds are popular backyard guests. By learning the tricks to attracting orioles you can easily invite them to become regular visitors.
Why We Love Orioles
The bright orange, black, and yellow plumage of orioles is a striking contrast to many less colorful backyard birds, and their rich, musical song is welcome to the ears. These aren’t the only reasons orioles are highly desirable backyard birds, however. Because their preferred foods are nectar, fruit, and jelly, they do not scatter seeds throughout the yard that may grow in unwanted places. Orioles also eat a wide range of insects, providing natural, effective pest control in the garden and yard. Backyard birders who know how to attract orioles with the four basic necessities of a bird’s life—food, water, shelter, and nesting sites—can take advantage of all orioles have to offer.
How to Attract Orioles
To attract any bird to your backyard, you must meet its survival needs. Fortunately, it is easy to do so for the different species of orioles.
- Food: Feeding orioles is easy, whether you offer orange halves, dishes of grape jelly, or specialized nectar. Planting berry-producing bushes, fruit trees, and nectar-producing flowers are also ways to offer orioles natural food sources. Feeders should be clean and conspicuous, and keep the food fresh to attract the most birds. Pesticide use should be minimized or avoided entirely to ensure a healthy, rich source of insects. This is critical protein for orioles, particularly during the summer breeding season when young birds are growing quickly. Orioles may also nibble at suet feeders, especially if suet is offered in shreds, crumbles, or small chunks the birds can snack on quickly. Suet is especially important in southern areas where orioles may stay as winter guests.
- Water: All birds need water for cleaning and bathing, and orioles are especially attracted to shallow bird baths and moving water. Choose a bird bath with a wide but shallow basin and add a bubbler or dripper for splashes and sparkles to attract the most birds. A bird bath with orange decorations or a terra cotta design can also catch orioles’ attention.
- Shelter: Orioles are shy birds that are typically solitary, though they may be found in pairs during the nesting season or in small groups after young birds have fledged. Offering protected spaces such as leafy deciduous trees and dense shrubs will make the birds feel more secure and welcome. Choose trees and shrubs that are native to your region so the birds will recognize them more easily, and opt for clumps of trees in thicket-like arrangements rather than solitary or isolated plantings.
- Nesting Sites: While orioles do not nest in bird houses, you can encourage them to build their nests in your yard if you have willow, elm, oak, poplar, cottonwood, or similar trees. To make the area even more attractive, offer nesting material such as pet fur, hair, or 3-4-inch lengths of yarn or thread for the birds to weave into their nests.
More Tips for Attracting Orioles
To make your backyard as welcome as possible for orioles and to catch their attention for a suitable habitat, follow a few tips when designing and maintaining your garden.
- Plant flowers in orange hues in your garden near nectar-producing blooms, or add an orange gazing ball for a burst of oriole-attracting color. Other accents, such as a colorful orange pot, a garden flag, or a painted bench, arbor or trellis can also get orioles' attention and encourage a visit.
- Keep oriole feeders separated from human activity and other feeding areas. These are shy birds that may not venture too close to busy areas until they are used to the setting. Separating the feeders will help the birds feel more secure and will allow more birds to feed in peace.
- Put oriole feeders out in late March or early April to attract the first spring migrants, and keep feeders out late into the fall for birds moving down from the north. This will maximize the number of orioles that visit your yard. As they remember the reliable food sources, they will return each year.
Do not be disappointed if it is difficult at first to attract orioles to your yard. By providing a safe, suitable habitat with plenty of food sources and other bird necessities, the orioles will soon notice your yard and become regular visitors.