8 Easy Tips for Attracting Orioles

Baltimore oriole on its nest - attracting orioles

The bright colors and sweet songs of an oriole are a special backyard birdwatching delight. Attracting orioles to your yard takes some time and effort, but is well worth it.

Orioles are visually striking birds with slender bodies, pointed bills, and bright plumage.

The males are a dazzling combination of orange, yellow, and black feathers, often accompanied by white markings on their wings and tails. 

While females have a slightly more subdued appearance, they are also beautiful.

Who wouldn't want to see this every day?

Success in attracting orioles begins with understanding where and when you’ll find them and what they need to thrive.

Where to find orioles

North America’s most common orioles are the Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula) and the Bullock's Oriole (Icterus bullockii).

The Baltimore Oriole is more common in eastern North America, while the Bullock's Oriole is prevalent in the western parts of the continent. 

Both species have similar habitat preferences and behaviors.

Other notable oriole species include the Orchard Oriole, Hooded Oriole, Scott’s Oriole, Audubon’s Oriole, Spot-breasted Oriole (an introduced species) and the Altamira Oriole1https://abcbirds.org/blog20/orioles-species-united-states/ .

Orioles are migratory birds that breed in the United States and Canada, then winter in Mexico. They start showing up in early April, breed until early June and start their migration in early July. 2 https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Baltimore_Oriole/maps-range#:~:text=From%20early%20April%20to%20late,northern%20tip%20of%20South%20America 

This means you’ll only see them in spring and summer, when they’re nesting and then preparing for their long migration south.

Baltimore oriole range map
Bullock's oriole range map
Female Baltimore oriole on her nest.

A female Baltimore oriole on her nest.

An oriole’s nest is a bag-shaped work of wonder that can take up to 12 days to construct!3 https://www.audubon.org/news/how-orioles-build-those-incredible-hanging-nest .

The females work incredibly hard to construct these intricately woven nests from a combination of long, flexible fibers such as plant stems, twigs, grasses, twine or even thin strips of bark, while the males bring them materials to work with.

Where do orioles hang out in nature?

Orioles favor open woodlands, forest edges, and areas with mature trees for nesting and foraging.

They prefer to build their nests in locations that offer protection and concealment, often at heights ranging from 8 to 30 feet above the ground.

They like trees with dense foliage, such as maples, elms, oaks, or willows, where the nest can be suspended from a horizontal branch.

They are also known to frequent orchards, parks, gardens, and even residential areas that provide suitable food sources and nesting opportunities.

This means that if you create a habitat with a mix of trees, shrubs, and open spaces you can entice them to visit your yard.

Attracting orioles to your yard

Water, the right kind of food and desirable nesting options are the keys to attracting orioles to your yard.

Best foods for attracting orioles

Orioles like to have a varied menu available, so your garden is going to be a great help in attracting them.

Planting fruit-bearing trees and shrubs such as serviceberries, mulberries, and elderberries will provide a natural food supply when they mature.

In the meantime, hanging oriole feeders containing nectar solutions, fresh fruits like oranges, berries, grapefruits, and mealworms can be tempting options.

You can easily make oriole nectar by mixing four parts water with one part white granulated sugar and boiling for one minute.

See also:

How to (really) keep bees away from hummingbird feeders  - works for oriole feeders too!

Don’t use: honey, brown sugar, or artificial sweeteners. Don’t use any commercial mix with red dye as this is toxic to hummingbird kidneys.

Like all birds, orioles feed their young exclusively on insects, so they may stop coming to your feeders once the nestlings have hatched.

When this happens, you can keep attracting orioles by switching to offering mealworms.

Orioles will readily chow down on live mealworms which you can buy online or raise yourself if you’re not squeamish.

Baltimore Oriole chicks iPD JulianColton attracting orioles

Baltimore oriole chick doing what chicks do!

To serve live mealworms, set them out in a glass dish, whose slippery sides the worms can’t climb.

Don’t overdo the mealworms though - digesting them results in a net calcium loss to the bird, leaving less calcium for healthy bones and egg shells.

Orioles will also eat suet mixed with fruit bits, berries or peanut butter and fresh, frozen or dried peas.

Don’t offer grape jelly (or any jelly or jam.)

It has become common to leave grape jelly out for orioles – so common that grape jelly has become a major problem for hummingbirds, and small birds like chickadees.

The jelly melts and gums up the hummies feathers, which can kill them.

Keep poisons away from the food

Orioles are sensitive to toxins, so avoid using pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals your garden. If they contaminate birdy food sources, such as insects, fruits, and nectar, they may poison your birds or lead reduced fertility.

Pesticides can also indirectly harm orioles and other birds by eliminating their insect prey, disrupting the food chain, and reducing the availability of natural food sources.

Best feeders for attracting orioles

Oriole feeders are designed especially for them and are usually bright orange or yellow to attract their attention.

The best feeders for orioles include spikes for holding orange halves, a small dish and/or a nectar feeder. As noted above, don’t use the dish for grape jelly, even though product photos often show this.

You’ll need a separate feeder for hummingbirds and orioles, because orioles have larger bills.

 Be sure to clean nectar feeders often to keep mold, bacteria and diseases at bay. Use warm water and a mild detergent to scrub the feeder, rinsing it thoroughly before refilling.

oriole feeder attracting orioles

A deluxe oriole feeder.

Where to put feeders

Orioles like to hide in foliage, so hang oriole feeders near trees or shrubs where orioles can take cover, and well away from windows (to prevent bird collisions).

Consider having multiple feeders to accommodate more birds and minimize competition.

Related: Bird Feeder Pecking Order: Understanding Feeder Wars  

Add fresh water 

Bullock's oriole on a bird bath - attracting orioles

A Bullock's oriole enjoying a cool dip.

All birds need fresh water for drinking and bathing, so offering a water source is a key part of attracting orioles to your yard.

 A birdbath or wide shallow water dish placed in a quiet and safe location will be irresistible, especially if you add a small fountain, bubbler or dripper.

Orioles don’t like hanging bird baths, so choose a pedestal or ground-level style to make them feel at home.

Clean the bird bath and refill it with fresh water a couple of times a week to keep your birds healthy and stop mosquitos from breeding.

Help them nest

Orioles don’t use man-made nest boxes – they like to DIY. But you can invite them in by providing the nesting resources they need.

Orioles need a sturdy branch or fork to build their nests on so if you have mature trees on your lot you’re a step ahead.

If not, see if you can get a dead tree (called a snag) from a local firewood seller or land development contractor. You may even get it for free if you can pick it up yourself.

For attracting orioles, pick one that’s tall, with some horizontal branches.

Make nest building easier for them by hanging strings, yarn, or strips of natural fibers from tree branches or other high locations.

You can also put pet fur, horse or human hair or twine in mesh bags or suet cages and hung it near the nesting site.

BONUS: Snags can boost local biodiversity by providing homes for cavity nesters like woodpeckers and non-avian species too. To learn more about using snags, check out this article.

Create a bird-friendly garden

Does your yard have a diversity of trees and shrubs? If so, you are ahead of the “attracting orioles” game.

If not, you might consider planting some fast-growing trees like birches, weeping willows, sycamore, tulip trees or red maples to provide perching and nesting sites.

Shrubs like serviceberries, dogwoods, and sumacs offer protective cover and some bird-edible fruits.

You could also consider berry bushes – raspberry, blackberry, blueberry and (not a bush) strawberry. That is, if you’re willing to share!

Orioles also love the same kinds of flowers that attract hummingbirds, so consider adding some nectar plants for attracting orioles.

In the north, plant

  • Trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)
  • Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans)
  • Jewelweeds (Impatiens spp.)
  • Salvias (Salvia spp)
  • Bee balm (Monarda)
  • Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
  • Yuccas
  • Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) - for nesting material – leave them in over winter and orioles will use the stems for nesting fibers in spring.

In the south, plant:

  • Fairy duster (Calliandra eriophylla)- a southwestern shrub that blooms all year
  • Fire Pink (Silene virginica) – a bright red perennial
  • Agaves
  • Yuccas
  • Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) - for nesting material – leave them in over winter and orioles will use the stems for nesting fibers in spring.

Embrace organic gardening 

As mentioned, orioles are sensitive to toxins and so is their food chain, so it's important to avoid using pesticides, herbicides and other harmful chemicals in your yard.

Organic gardening methods and native plants protect the birds and also produce healthier plants.

Use native plants

Native trees, shrubs, and flowers provide natural food sources and attract insects, which help feed orioles and other birds.

Native plants also help preserve your local biodiversity.

Audubon has a fantastic resource for finding native plants (in the USA). Just type in your zip code and select the type of plant you’re looking for. You can even select the birds you want to attract.

BONUS: You’ll also protect biodiversity and grow healthier plants!

Attracting orioles may take time, so be patient and consistent in providing food, water, and a suitable environment. Once orioles discover your yard as a reliable food and nesting source, they will likely return year after year.


We’ve covered a lot of ground in this article. We’ve talked about orioles’ specific needs and covered 8 strategies for attracting them with food, water and shelter.

Orioles are shy birds that tend to avoid people, so it may take a few seasons before you see them.

But if you persist, you’ll find yourself attracting lots of orioles that return year after year.

Oriole FAQs

Can orioles use a hummingbird feeder?

No. Their beaks are thicker than a hummy’s, so they won’t fit in the hole.

Where is the best place to put an oriole feeder?

Orioles like to hide among the leaves, so place the feeder close to trees and shrubbery if you can.

Can I put an oriole feeder next to a hummingbird feeder?

Yes you can, but since hummingbirds are ferociously territorial, it’s better to separate them.

What is the best food to attract orioles?

Hummingbird nectar: sugar water that is made with 4 parts water to 1 part sugar. You can also offer fresh fruit. Don’t offer any kind of jelly: orioles like it, hummingbirds will try it too. If the jelly has melted, it will gum up the hummingbirds feathers and possibly kill them.

How often should I replace oranges?

Every day.

What time of day are orioles most active?

Early morning

What is the best height for an oriole feeder?

As high as you can reach – 6 to 10 feet or higher.

Is it too late to attract orioles?

Orioles are seen in the US and Canada from early April till early July.

What kind of liquid do you put in an oriole feeder?

Clear uncolored sugar water made with 4 parts water to 1 part sugar.

How do I offer oranges to orioles?

You can place orange halves on a flat surface near some shrubbery (preferably not accessible to cats). You can also place them on an oriole feeder made for the purpose or spike them on a tree branch.

What colors attracts orioles?


Do orioles like cranberries?

Yes. So do other fruit eating birds like waxwings, robins and catbirds.

When should I take down oriole feeders?

Most orioles have reached their tropical winter homes during the first half of October, so later in October is a good time to clean your feeders and put them away for the winter.

What does an oriole nest look like?

Oriole nests are bag-shaped, wider at the bottom with a smaller opening at the top.

Can I feed orioles dried fruit?

 They may have trouble swallowing dried fruit because it’s so dry. So if you do want to offer dried fruit, soak it in water first to make it easier to eat.

About the author

Joy Thurlow

Hi, I'm Joy Thurlow. Watching birds in the back yard is a favorite hobby of mine. My mission with Joy of Birdwatching is to share (accurate) information about birds, birding and useful products to help everyone connect with nature and enjoy the birds while we still have them. Thanks for reading!

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About the Author

Joy Thurlow

Hi, I'm Joy Thurlow. Watching birds in the back yard is a favorite hobby of mine. My mission with Joy of Birdwatching is to share (accurate) information about birds, birding and useful products to help everyone connect with nature and enjoy the birds while we still have them. Thanks for reading!