Orioles

With its bright and beautiful black and orange (or yellow) feathers, and loud flute-like song, the Oriole is one of America’s favorite birds. You may also see the Orchard Oriole, which is smaller than the Baltimore oriole. The Orchard Oriole is lighter, more yellow than orange, and arrives later than the Baltimore Orioles.

Nesting

The male Baltimore Oriole will claim a territory by sounding off a harsh, chattered sound. They will also sit high in the trees singing their song to attract the females. Orioles are monogamous. The male courts the female by a series of flight stunts, fanning his feathers, bowing his head and whistling. After the courtship, the female Baltimore Oriole selects the site where she will construct the nest. It takes her 6 to 15 days to complete the nest. The oriole nest is very distinctive from other birds because it is a gourd-shaped nest about 5 inches long. Its outer shell is tightly woven of unstructured fibers from the inner bark of trees or weed stalks. Synthetic fibers have also been known to be used. You can help them out by placing pieces of yarn, twine or string outside that are cut in 6” to 8” lengths; no longer, otherwise they may becoming entangled. After the outside of the nest has been finished, the female will then enter the inside of the nest to deepen it and shape it with her body. After it is shaped, she will look around for soft material to line it, using grasses, cotton, plants, down, or hair. It is thought that the Orioles build their nests in the oblong shape to help deter predators from destroying the eggs or killing the young because they are hidden, and it is difficult to get to them.

Upon completion of the nest, the female Oriole will lay 4 to 5 pale grayish-white eggs that are streaked and blotched with dark lines. The female oriole incubates the clutch while the male hangs around the nest, attending to it when the female leaves to feed. Sometimes the male will bring food to the female during the incubation time that lasts about 11 to 14 days. The new chicks remain in the nest for about two weeks with both the male and female feeding them insects at first, and then adding fruit. When they are strong enough to fledge, they will usually all leave within hours. The young Orioles will hang around with their parents for about two weeks before going off on their own.


Type of Food

The Baltimore Orioles will look for spiders, grasshoppers, caterpillars, leaf beetles, and gypsy moth larvae to supply half of their dietary needs. They are a desirable bird to have in your yard for insect control. Other natural foods they are also fond of include berries and soft fruits. They will also feed on the nectar of tubular flowers and garden flowers such as hollyhocks and sunflowers.

Orioles will often frequent bird feeders that are stocked with oranges, especially when they return to the nesting area after migrating. But grape jelly seems to be most attractive to them. Some have even been known to use hummingbird feeders; this inspired the development of nectar feeders designed specifically for orioles. The Birds Choice NP1009 oriole feeder allows you to put an orange half on the rod, has troughs for grape jelly and a basin for nectar. Orioles prefer nectar that is not as sweet as the hummingbird's nectar. When mixing your own nectar, use 1 part sugar to 6 parts water. Never add dyes. The orange cover on the feeder is enough to attract them.

How to Attract

When it is time for these beautiful birds to arrive in your area, it is important to put feeders up because they are starved! It is best to have a feeder filled and ready for them prior to arrival. Birds migrate at night, and when they arrive they are cold, tired and hungry. The first thing on their mind is to locate a food source and usually early in spring, the insects are not yet abundant. If you are ready for them, it will make attracting and keeping them around all summer much easier. If you want the combination of the feeder with the Birds Choice orange weather guard which keeps the rain off the feeder and provides shade, look for Birds Choice NP1012. The orange color helps attract the orioles to the feeding station. Also look for our recycled oriole feeders and copper oriole feeders. Birds Choice has a variety of oriole feeders that can be hung, mounted to your window or placed on a deck table. Make sure to place the feeders where you can enjoy watching these colorful birds from your house. And most important, keep the feeders full and fresh!

Migratory Patterns

Migration starts in early April and continues through May for the Orioles that venture to the most northern parts of the USA and Canada.


The Orioles winter in Florida, Mexico and Central and South America. They return to their breeding grounds in North America in the spring and spend most of the summer there before heading south sometime during August or September. This map shows where the Baltimore Orioles spend their summer months.