It can be really exciting to attract a special bird to your yard. Something you may not see at the feeder every day. In the spring, many species of orioles return to the U.S. from their southern wintering grounds. These beautiful and brightly colored birds always captivate peoples attention. However, they don’t eat birdseed and are reluctant to visit backyards. So how can you attract orioles to your yard? By using the best oriole feeders you can find and offering the right types of food! Only certain feeders will grab their attention, and only a few types of food will make them want to stop and eat.
These are our top recommended oriole feeders and tips on the best foods to pair them with to attract orioles to your yard this spring!
Top 5 Best Oriole Feeders
This jelly and orange feeder on a hanging platform with a roof is a common style you will see several brands have their own versions of. This is made in the USA from recycled plastic. What I like about this one is it seems to be of higher quality than its less expensive counter parts, and will last longer. There is a screw inbetween the cups for an optional orange half, and the plastic roof will help keep out a little bit of weather.
- Two jelly jars that remove for easy cleaning
- A screw peg for orange halves
- Bright orange poly recycled plastic body designed to not crack or fade
This Birds Choice oriole feeder has a simple yet attractive design. The dish is removable which makes cleaning easy. You can feed jelly and oranges, or just choose one or the other. If you ever break the plastic jelly dish, they do sell replacements. This is an inexpensive, basic feeder that has everything you need. Amazon reviewers are overall very pleased with this and are able to attract orioles. One reviewer said an oriole was trying to make off with that little plastic orange heart, haha! You can remove that if you don’t like the aesthetic.
- 3 ounce cup for feeding jelly or cut grapes
- Holds 2 orange halves
- Flower design provides lots of perching room
If you’re looking to feed nectar to the orioles this First Nature feeder is a great inexpensive choice. According to reviewers on Amazon, hummingbirds will also drink out of this. Just remember if you intend to feed orioles to use a less potent sugar water ratio of 1:6. See further down in this article for more details on making your own nectar. The orange color will bring the birds in, and the numerous feeding ports and large perch ring will make it easy for them to get plenty of nectar.
- Wide-mouth reservoir makes for easy filling and cleaning
- 10 feeding ports
- 32 ounce capacity
- Orange coloring to attract orioles
If you know for certain you only want to feed orange halves, this wire feeder is about as basic as you can get. I have used this myself and found it works great. Oranges don’t fall off, and the orioles manage to perch on the top of the orange ring without problem. Simple to clean off and the wire is very strong and sturdy. It would take a lot of effort to break this! No wood that rots or plastic that cracks.
- Simple design
- Powder coated orange metal washes easily
- Rust resistant
- Loop around branches or hang from regular feeder pole
If you are only able to have window feeders but desperately want to try your hand at attracting orioles, this might be the answer for you. This is one of the only oriole-exclusive window feeders I have seen. Has a nice clear cover for a little weather protection and two cups for jelly or cut up fruits. Bright orange coloring will be sure to catch their attention.
- Made of poly lumbar in bright orange coloring
- 4 strong suction cups to support feeder weight
- 2 glass feeding jars
What to Feed Orioles
Now that we have looked at some good feeder choices, let’s delve into food.
Jelly, especially grape jelly, is a favorite of orioles. There are a lot of opinions in the bird community about which types of jelly you should feed, if they are healthy, and how much is too much. Our opinion is, try to pick the healthiest version you can find, and only put out one serving of jelly per day.
What do we mean by “healthy”? If possible avoid jellies containing high fructose corn syrup or corn based sweeteners. You can usually find some “organic” or “natural” jellies at the store that have a very short ingredient list without a bunch of additives. Songbird Essentials does make a grape and blackberry “BirdBerry Jelly” that you can purchase in a squeeze bottle. This might be a good alternative if your local grocery doesn’t have good options.
Orioles need more than just sugar in their diet, and some people worry they will just gorge themselves on jelly all day and eat little else. To make sure they aren’t eating too much, and are still foraging for natural foods, limit how much you put out daily. Fill up your feeder in the morning, and then don’t put any more out for the rest of the day. Also stick to small sized cups, something that would fit in the palm of your hand.
If you are interested in further exploring the topic of birds and jelly, Laura Erickson has a great blog on the subject here.
In the spring, before insects are easy to find, orioles supplement their diet with a lot of fruits and berries. They love oranges! They are so attracted to the color that almost all oriole feeders you will see for sale are painted orange. Oranges are safe, natural, and super easy to feed. You can buy a special feeder, but it’s also cheap and easy to put something together on your own.
Orioles are unlikely to peck through the rind, so you’ll want to cut your orange in half so they have access to the fleshy inside. All you need to do is impale the orange half on something sturdy (nail, wooden peg, tree branch, etc) and voila. Just make sure there is some type of perch next to the orange the oriole can land on.
Keep a close eye on your fruit, as it will spoil quickly in the sun and heat. Orange halves also dry out quickly. You should replace them every 1-2 days. If you are using feeders, give them a good wipe down so the old sticky juice doesn’t spread mold or bacteria to the fresh fruit.
Oriole nectar is easy to make. You make it the same way you would your hummingbird nectar, just with less sugar. Orioles don’t need the heavy sugar load that hummingbirds do, and their bodies can’t process the super high concentrations. You’ll want to make your nectar in a 1:6 ratio of 1 part sugar to 6 parts water.
Add 1 cup of granulated, plain white sugar to six cups of water. Stir until all the sugar is dissolved. What you can’t serve right away, save in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks. Boiling or hot water will dissolve the sugar faster, but isn’t necessary. Filtered or bottled water is preferable to reduce impurities.
You can buy pre-made oriole nectar but we would advise against that if possible. For one it’s so much cheaper to make it yourself. Also, the premade nectars often have dyes and additives that may not be very healthy for the birds. We always suggest staying away from dyes. If your oriole feeder is colored orange, you don’t need any additional coloring in your nectar.
4. Mealworms & Suet
Jelly, nectar and fruits are all great foods for spring. The orioles are arriving back from a long migration and appreciate the sugar as an energy boost. But as spring turns into summer, orioles need more protein in their diet in the form of insects. At this point, as insects become more abundant in the wild, they may stop coming to your feeders. However if they have decided to nest nearby, they may still visit and even grab food for their nestlings if you are offering up good protein. Mealworms, live or freeze-dried, are a great choice. If you have an oriole feeder with jelly cups, you can use those same cups for mealworms. That makes an easy transition.
Orioles will also sometimes eat suet. Some brands have made orange flavored suet especially for attracting orioles, such as C&S Oriole Delight. Suet is really hit or miss for orioles though and doesn’t have as good a track record as the other foods mentioned here. However if you want to try it, the good news is the other suet eating birds in your yard will love it, so it won’t go to waste.
When do I put my oriole feeders out?
When it comes to orioles, the sooner the better. You want your feeders out and ready BEFORE you expect them to arrive. As orioles return to your area they will quickly make decisions on where to look for food and what spots to settle down in. To have the best chance of having them come back to your yard routinely, you want to attract their attention early.
In the southern half of the United States this is usually late March to early April. For the northern half, mid-April to mid-May.