What Do Orioles Eat? A Comprehensive View Of An Oriole’s Diet

December 21, 2021 // 9 minute read // 1 Shares

Articles » What Do Orioles Eat?

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We all love orioles. They color our backyard and sing us the most beautiful tunes. And this is the very reason why many of us love attracting orioles to our backyard. So, understanding exactly what do orioles eat is necessary.

As we all know, one of the most effective ways to attract birds is by giving them the right food. And for orioles, these are mostly fruits, nectar, and insects. Yep, orioles don’t eat seeds, which means having lots of fruit-bearing plants around your yard would make orioles happier. 

In this article, we’ll talk about what orioles eat. We’ll discuss: 

  • The Oriole Diet
  • Oriole feeding behavior
  • What orioles eat 
  • What orioles eat by species
  • What orioles eat by season
  • Tips on feeding orioles
  • FAQs

So if you’re interested to know more about what orioles eat and how you can use their favorite food to attract them to your backyard, read on… 

The Oriole Diet

Orioles are classified as frugivorous birds or fruit-eating specialists. This means that fruits are a large part of their diet. But other than fruits, they are also one of the few birds that enjoy drinking nectar or sugar water. 

These birds also include insects on their diet but only when it’s needed, like during the breeding season as a source of protein for their eggs. At the same time, the diet of young orioles are mainly composed of insects exclusively to aid their growth. 

Oriole Feeding Behavior

Orioles look for something to eat mid-flight, normally while on their way back to wintering or breeding grounds. They’ll locate some feeders mid-air and once they find something, they’ll fly down to check the feeders out. 

Check Out Our Oriole Bird Feeder Buying Guide

Oriole Bird Feeders

They often search for insects among tree and shrub foliages, sometimes catching insects midair. They visit flowers for nectars and will look for feeders with available fruits. 

What Do Orioles Eat? 

Fruits

Orioles love all kinds of fruits – oranges, bananas, grapes, apples, peaches, berries, etc. This means that if you have any old fruits at home that are close to decaying, you can just give them to orioles and know fruits should go to waste. 

oranges for orioles
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And while you can serve any fruit to orioles, their favorites will always be oranges. This is because these birds are most attracted to the color orange. 

To serve it to them, all you need is to slice the fruit in half and place it each half on a nail fruit-side-up. Not several minutes will pass by and you’ll notice the birds flying in for a feast, 

Of course, you can do the same with any fruit. 

Aside from oranges, orioles will also be glad to have other fresh fruits around, like berries. All you need is to plant some berry shrubs or bushes for the birds. You can include the following berries: 

  • Blackberries
  • Serviceberries
  • Raspberries
  • Mulberries
  • Huckleberries
  • Blueberries
  • Elderberries

What’s nice about planting these plants is that orioles will have something to eat and also a place to hide from when they need to. 

Nectar

Aside from hummingbirds, orioles are another species that love nectar. This sugary water provides them lots of energy and is often what they consume the most if they want to get more fat reserves. 

Planting lots of nectar-producing flowers will supply orioles with enough nectar that they’d need. Some flowers you can plant include: 

  • Columbine
  • Woodland phlox
  • Wild geranium
  • Blazing star
  • Bee balm
  • Cardinal flower

You can also plant orange flowers that will pull orioles toward your backyard. 

Aside from planting nectar flowers, you can also make your own nectar mix. It’s very easy to make, just mix 6 parts water to 1 part sugar, place it inside a nectar feeder for orioles, and you’re done! 

While there are some recipes that say you should put some orange coloring or flavoring, don’t do this. These extra ingredients can be dangerous for the orioles, and might even lead to their deaths. 

You can’t just use the same hummingbird feeder for nectars, because the orioles’ bill wouldn’t fit. So getting a separate nectar feeder would be necessary. 

Insects

Last but not least, orioles also eat insects. However, they only consume these when really needed. It’s a great source of protein for them during the breeding season, and even the young oriole birds exclusively feed only on insects. 

But other than the breeding season, orioles would prefer eating more fruits and drinking nectar. 

By planting nectar-producing flowers, you can easily attract insects in your backyard. But as a supplement, you can also serve orioles some mealworms, dead or alive. 

Jelly

Aside from real fruits, orioles also love eating fruit-flavored jelly. But if these birds can pick a favorite, it would surely be the grape-flavored jelly. 

grape jelly for orioles
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Fortunately, orioles are not very particular about what kind of grape jelly you buy. So, you can just easily go to the nearest local store, get the cheapest grape jelly, go home, and serve that to the orioles. 

There are oriole feeders designed specifically to serve orioles some jelly. Normally, the feeder just comes with a small cup where you can place the jelly inside, and then you hang it on a tree, and you’re done! 

Suet

Some bird watchers report seeing orioles eating some suet as a source of energy for winter. And although some orioles eat them, you’ll still be more likely to attract orioles if you use all the other foods above. 

What Orioles Eat By Species

There are around nine orioles found in North America. In the table below, we provide to you a summary of what food each of these species mostly preferred: 

Oriole SpeciesFood Preference
Altamira OrioleInsects, fruit, berries
Audubon’s OrioleInsects, fruit, nectar
Baltimore Oriole Insects, berries, fruit, nectar, peanut butter, suet
Bullock’s OrioleInsects, berries, fruit, nectar, suet
Hooded OrioleInsects, nectar, bread scraps (rare), fruit
Orchard OrioleInsects, berries, flowers, nectar, fruit
Spot-breasted OrioleInsects, fruit, berries, nectar
Streak-backed OrioleInsects, grubs, seeds, flower, nectar
Scott’s OrioleInsects, fruit, nectar

Out of these nine, only five are most commonly found in a backyard. These are: 

  • Baltimore Orioles
  • Bullock’s Orioles
  • Hooded Orioles
  • Orchard Orioles
  • Scott’s Orioles

So, if you wish to attract any of these birds, it’s best to take note of what their most preferred foods are. 

What Orioles Eat By Season

The Orioles diet can also vary depending on the season. And knowing this information will help a lot in helping you figure out what to serve orioles, depending on the time of the year they pass by your home. 

During the summer season, orioles would eat more insects as this serves as their protein source. It’s only the only thing that young orioles eat to aid their development. 

But once we’re moving closer to the winter season, they switch their diet to something more sugary. This is when they eat mostly fruits, jelly, and nectar. The fats they get from all this sugar serve as their energy reserves for long travel and to protect themselves from winter. 

And when winter comes, orioles eat mainly what’s available, and these are mostly fruits. 

Other Tips On Feeding Orioles

Giving orioles the right food is important. But if you want these birds to keep on coming back, here are some tips you can keep in mind. 

  • Stop using pesticides as this will kill any insects that can still serve as the orioles’ food source. 
  • Protect orioles from ants by putting ant moats on every oriole feeder you have. But remember, you should never smear poles or feeders with oil-based products as this can endanger the bird, too. 
  • Never give orioles orange-flavored juices, drinks, sodas, flavoring, etc. Again, this is a health hazard for the bird and might cause their deaths. 
  • Ensure that you’re serving orioles fresh food every time by replacing feeder contents (jelly, fruit, nectar) regularly. As these are sugary and watery products, this type of food can easily attract insects and will get moldy. 

FAQs On What Do Orioles Eat

What do you feed orioles? 

As mentioned above, orioles generally love fruits, nectar, and insects. So, in bird feeders, it’s best to give them fruits, mainly orange, nectar (fresh or homemade), and mealworms. You can also make your backyard insect-friendly to attract more insects. 

Where is the best place to put an oriole feeder?

Orioles usually find something to eat while flying, so putting oriole feeders out in an open space surrounded by trees and shrubs would be perfect. Also, you should keep the feeders away from the sun to prevent the food from spoiling fast. 

Where do you put oranges for orioles? 

There are orange feeders dedicated to orioles where you can place both nectar and orange. But of course, you can use any platform feeder and just place the orange slices fruit-side-up. And to ensure that the fruit doesn’t move, hammer a nail on wood and place the orange there. 

Do I need to put up bird feeders for orioles in winter? 

Yes, it’s always best to put up bird feeders for orioles in winter. Orioles would need all the food sources available to give them enough energy to provide. 

What’s most important is to provide the birds with water so they don’t get hydrated. At best, install a heated bird bath so there’s consistent water for them. 

What Do Orioles Eat – Final Thoughts

Again, orioles are one of the fewer bird species that prefer fruits to seeds. They also drink the nectar of flowers and only eat insects when necessary. 

So, if you wish to attract orioles in your backyard, it’s best to provide them with oranges, grape jelly, sugar water, and mealworms. You can also plant a variety of berries and nectar-producing flowers as an extra food source for them. 

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