Oriole Feeders

There is some debate about when feeders should be used to supplement the diet of birds. In this post, we will be looking at that, as well as good use of feeders – when, where and how to use them. In particular, we will consider the best feeder to use to attract orioles.

Photo by Andy Morffew

Why use feeders?

There are differing opinions on whether birds should be fed all year round. The feeding of birds in the winter has an obvious justification – food is scarcer and birds struggle. There is a school of thought that says intermittent feeding during spring and fall is good and that you shouldn’t feed birds in the summer. There is some justification for that as many species that eat fruit and nectar in non-breeding periods will switch to catching insects in summer so putting out fruit etc might not be worthwhile. This change is because young chicks need a lot of protein in order to grow quickly and insects provide this. There is also (or should be) an abundance of food available in the summer.

Photo by Imogen Warren

However, due to human interference and development, it may not be as simple as that. Habitat loss may well reduce accessibility to appropriate food. For instance, a housing development on the edge of a town is likely to be built on pastoral land. If that reduces availability of food then what would be wrong with the new occupants putting extra out for them? A double whammy of insect numbers reducing because of pesticides may make this even more important in summer months than ever before.

The downside of feeding birds all year round is, of course, that birds become reliant on this food source and will struggle even more if it is withdrawn.

How to support bird life

Feeders are a great way to support bird life. Clean, well maintained feeders can help a range of birds just in your garden as well as attract new birds to it.

By planting native species in your garden, you can attract birds. Providing them with a safe haven and food source at the same time cannot hurt.

By reducing our dependancy on fruit and vegetables grown with pesticide use, we can support local environments and restore balance in those ecosystems.

Photo by Tony Castro


There are 10 species of Oriole seen in continental United States, not including escapee varieties. Without exception, they are a stunning group of birds with incredible plumage, which makes them a popular garden visitor. The males are generally a black color with large parts of the body being a vibrant yellow to bright orange or brown. Females vary from duller colors to attractive greens and yellows. Some, like the Altimira and Audubon’s, are tropical, while others are migratory.

Photo by Dan Pancamo
SpeciesBreeding Location
Altamira Oriole (Icterus gularis)SW Texas
Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula)Center and eastern parts
Audubon’s Oriole (Icterus graduacauda)SW Texas
Hooded Oriole (Icterus cucullatus)SW U.S.
Bullock’s Oriole (Icterus bullockii)Center and west
Scott’s Oriole (Icterus parisorum)SW U.S.
Orchard Oriole (Icterus spurius)Center, SW and eastern U.S.
Streak-backed Oriole (Icterus pustulatus) SW U.S.
Black-vented Oriole (Icterus wagleri) South west
Spot-breasted Oriole (Icterus pectoralis)Florida
Photo by Len Blumin

The table shows that orioles can be found across the country. One thing they have in common is that they all feed on nectar, insects and fruits. In addition, they are not averse to visiting feeders.

Photo by Imogen Warren

What do orioles eat?

In the breeding season, orioles are one of the types of bird that switches to an insectivorous diet to provide appropriate nutrition to their offspring. While they eat mainly insects, they will also consume the larvae of butterflies and moths, grasshoppers and beetles.

During non-breeding periods, orioles revert to a mainly vegetarian diet with fruits and nectar the main source. They will also eat insects if available.

Spring – citrus and nectar, can also include grape jelly on feeders

Summer – insects and mealworms, will also take suet from feeders

Photo by Clinton

What to feed orioles and how

Orioles have adapted to humans providing an additional food source and will seek out bird feeders that have fruit and suet on them. However, they may be quite particular about what they take and what suits them one week may not the next. The key is, when feeding orioles, is to be flexible and keep trying. A bird feeder that has a mixture of these foods is the best bet in getting orioles to visit. A replacement for insects during the summer period is to use mealworms.

Types of feeders

  1. Flat, open tray – the simplest of all bird feeders and one that can be made at home. Balance it on a garden fixture or hang from a branch. Just throw in some fruits, nuts, seed and/or suet and mealworms. To give enough choice, you might want to add a container with grape jelly and/or nectar in.
  2. Another really simple feeder is a length of wood with some nails in it. This is perfect for hanging fruit on. Because the oriole like choice, this can be used in conjunction with other feeders.
  3. If you want something that will be a little easier to clean, there are many bird feeders you can buy with containers sunk into the frame which can be removed for cleaning. The configurations are endless, as is the cost.
Photo by Andy Reago

When looking to feed orioles, there are more things to consider than just putting out a feeder.

  1. Research the local area. Establishing which species are local and when they are present is the place to start.
  2. Create a colorful feeder, orioles are attracted to orange.
  3. Use a selection of foods in it. Include grape jelly, oranges and other fruit and suet or mealworms.
  4. Be patient and monitor your feeder to see what works.


When should you put oriole feeders out?

Migratory orioles return to the U.S. in spring so you need to put feeders out before they arrive to give them the best chance of finding them. Late March is probably the best time.

What kind of feeders do orioles like?

Orioles love oranges. Half them and hang them near to your feeders.

What plants attract orioles?

Orioles are nectar feeders so having plants that produce tubular flowers with nectar are great. Visit your garden center for advice on which native plants are best.

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