What Do Orioles Eat?

Whether you’re seriously researching different bird species or just like to observe and feed the birds in your garden, it’s important to know what different birds’ diets look like. 

One bird species with a more unusual diet is the Oriole.

If you’re lucky enough to have these colorful birds visit your garden, it’s crucial to know what they can and can’t eat so you can provide them with the nutrients they need and keep them coming back. 

If you’re interested in finding out what Orioles eat, read on! We’ll be covering what kind of birds Orioles are, how to identify them, what they eat and how you can feed them in this guide. 

What are orioles?

Orioles are birds belonging to the genus Icterus. They are actually members of the blackbird family, although they look similar to thrushes. You can differentiate between orioles and thrushes, however, because orioles have longer bodies and thicker beaks. 

Another easy way to identify orioles when they fly into your backyard is by their bright and contrasting plumage. Orioles are mostly black and bright yellow, which makes them easy to spot. 

Typically, the males are more brightly-colored than the females, but birds of both sexes are known for their loud voices, which they use to call to one another in very musical tones. 

Although orioles are easy to identify even from a distance, they are not so easy to see up-close. That’s because they prefer to stay in the canopies of tall trees for the most part. 

Photo by Mdf

What do orioles eat

If you’ve been thinking about feeding the orioles you see flying around your garden, your first instinct may have been to put out seeds in a bird feeder. However, while many bird species do love seeds, orioles are different. They don’t eat seeds, so putting out a seed-filled feeder won’t do anything to attract orioles to your yard. 

So, what do orioles eat? Well, these beautiful birds’ diets are made up of 3 main components: insects, fruit, and nectar

It’s important to note that orioles’ food of choice changes depending on the season. In the spring, orioles have just finished migrating, and they have traveled a long way. During this time of year, orioles need to replenish their energy, so they prefer sugary food such as fruit and nectar. They especially seem to love oranges and grape jelly

If you want to encourage orioles into your garden in spring, the best foods you can leave out are orange halves and grape jelly.

Then, when they start nesting in the summer, they’ll favor proteinous insects such as mealworms. This is because the chicks need a lot of protein to grow quickly.

How to feed orioles

Photo by Imogen Warren

Choose a versatile, orange feeder

When choosing a feeder for orioles, you’ll want to make sure it’s versatile enough to offer multiple different food sources. That means it should have at least one shallow dish that you can use for either jelly or mealworms depending on the season, and maybe prongs for securing orange slices. 

Orioles are attracted to vivid colors, especially the color orange since oranges are one of their favorite sources of food. Therefore, if you want to make sure that orioles notice your feeder, it should be brightly-colored and ideally orange. 

Some oriole-specific feeders even have a sugar water dispenser since sugary water is another good source of energy for these birds. Just remember to clean the water holder regularly with soap and water,  just as you should clean the other parts of the feeder.

Make sure that the feeder also has a convenient place for the birds to perch while they feed. Orioles are not like hummingbirds – they can’t just hover in the air while enjoying a snack. They need somewhere comfortable and safe to sit. 

Put food out early 

Start putting food out for orioles a few weeks ahead of spring. This is important because if you want orioles to stick around in your area, they need to notice a food source at the beginning of the season.

Otherwise, they’ll either go elsewhere or simply won’t use your feeder because they won’t associate it with the start of the season. 

Putting food out early may seem wasteful, but it means that when the first orioles arrive, they’ll notice the feeder straight away and be more likely to use it. 

Photo by Andy Morffew

Change food sources seasonally 

We mentioned that orioles like sugary foods in the spring and mealworms in the summer. Therefore, you need to make sure you’re changing the food sources you offer in accordance with the season. 

Put out grape jelly and orange halves in the spring. You may want to dilute the jelly slightly with water to make a thick, juice-like consistency. This will ensure you don’t have to spend too much money replenishing the jelly since it will last longer.

Once the weather warms up and summer arrives, you can start using the dish of your oriole feeder for mealworms instead of jelly. 

Place orange slices in water 

If you’re having a problem with ants getting to your oriole feeder, you can deter these insects by putting your orange halves in water.

Use a shallow dish to submerge the orange pieces in water instead of leaving them exposed on prongs. Make sure to change the orange halves daily so that they don’t get moldy in the water. 

If you already have an oriole feeder that only has a single dish and prongs, don’t worry. You can also add an ant moat to your feeder. 

Photo by Len Blumin

Final Thoughts 

Orioles change their diet depending on the season.

After migrating during the winter, they like to replenish their energy supplies by eating lots of sugary foods like fruit, sugar water, and grape jelly in the spring.

In the summer, while preparing for nesting season, they like high-protein foods such as mealworms. 

If you want to feed the orioles in your garden, make sure to change the food source with the season and choose a brightly-colored feeder with comfortable perches.

Keep insects away by placing fruit in water or using an ant moat to deter them.


Will orioles eat apples?

You can try a range of fruits to see which they like. Start with putting some nails on a branch and then stick the fruit onto them. Do this separately from the feeder so the fruits are a desirable addition.

Do orioles drink water?

Orioles certainly need to drink. Rather than putting out plain water, try sugar water (the same as for hummingbirds) in a container.

Do flowers attract orioles?

Yes they do. If you can add plants that have tubular shaped flowers, then they should attract orioles.

When should I stop feeding orioles?

Keep feeding orioles until they stop coming! This could be late fall or they may keep coming through the winter. It depends on the actual species you have in the garden.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

How To Keep Squirrels Out Of Bird Feeders

How To Keep Squirrels Out Of Bird Feeders

Many of us have bird feeders in our backyards

How To Keep Ants Out Of Hummingbird Feeders
How To Keep Ants Out Of Hummingbird Feeders

How To Keep Ants Out Of Hummingbird Feeders

If you love hummingbirds, then chances are, you have gone through great efforts

You May Also Like