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The Diets Of Orioles: What They Eat & Attracting Them

Orchard Oriole about to snack on some berries

Orioles are some of our most beautiful birds! Plumaged in striking orange or bright yellow with jet black, these gorgeous songbirds always make a big impression.

Even better, orioles can also visit backyard habitats and feeders! However, it helps to know what they eat.

How can we attract more orioles? What exactly do orioles eat, and how can we see more of them?

 

Key takeaways:

  • Orioles are omnivores, which means their diet consists of various insects, berries, fruit, and even nectar.
  • While we can see orioles in our backyards, they are not attracted to regular feeders. However, this is a chance to pick up on their fruit-loving side.

 

What Do Orioles Eat?

Like most birds, the shape of their beaks can say a lot about their diet. The sharp, almost wedge-shaped beaks of orioles are good for picking insects and caterpillars from dead leaves and other foliage.

A sharp beak also helps peck into fruit, pick berries, and even probe into flowers. In fact, those food items sum up the diets of most orioles. For example, Baltimore Orioles forage for larvae and other insects that thrive in their woodland and second growth habitats.

A young Baltimore Oriole

They also take some nectar from flowers (and feeders), and eat fruit, especially on their tropical wintering grounds. Out west, Bullock’s Orioles have a similar diet, and the small Orchard Oriole uses its warbler like beak to eat insects along with lots of nectar. This small oriole and the similarly shaped Hooded Oriole often gather at flowering trees to feed from flowers.

In the American Southwest and Mexico, lovely Scott’s Orioles forage for similar food items in arid habitats. They love to take nectar from Yucca flowers, and also visit nectar feeders.

Audubon’s Orioles and Altamira Orioles have stronger beaks that may help them catch larger insects. They also eat a lot of fruit and can take sunflower seeds at feeders.

 

What Do Baby Orioles Eat?

Baby orioles eat the same things as their parents but with a few differences. Shortly after they hatch, both parents start to feed them regurgitated bits of insects. Like other songbirds, the adults regurgitate that vital food directly into the nestling bird’s mouth.

They feed them like this for a few days and then switch to putting insects into their nestling’s mouths. The parent birds feed them all sorts of insects, especially grasshoppers and caterpillars. They’ll put the entire bug into the young bird’s mouth but if an insect is too big, the adult orioles feed them pieces of the bug, bit by bit.

As the baby orioles grow, their parents also start feeding them berries, and pieces of fruit but a diet rich in insects is vital for their survival.

The baby orioles grow quickly and leave their nest around 12 or 13 days after hatching. However, they stay nearby and wait quietly until their parents come close. Upon seeing them, the fledglings can make loud calls as they beg to be fed.

Although they can fly a few days after leaving the nest, baby orioles are still fed by their parents for another two weeks. After that time, they have to forage on their own.

 

Is it possible to attract orioles with food?

Orioles like to forage for insects and other food in trees and bushes. However, if you offer them certain types of food, they can also visit backyard feeders!

To attract orioles, we have to think about the things they like to eat the most. Since insects are the most important part of their diet, orioles will visit pesticide-free backyards that have tall trees and other native vegetation.

Flowering trees, bushes, and cacti will also bring them in, especially Orchard, Hooded, and Scott’s Orioles.

Bullock's Oriole in the middle of blooms

As far as feeders go, mealworms can work along with a few other offerings. Orioles love to eat ripe fruit and flower nectar because these birds have a serious sweet tooth. Maybe not as much as hummingbirds but they definitely love sugar!

Put out nectar feeders with ports and trays big enough for oriole beaks and orioles will probably come in for a drink. The same goes for grape jelly and orange slices; two of the most common and easy oriole foods!

Orioles also like other fruits. In Costa Rica, I often see them at feeders with ripe bananas and papaya.

Orioles usually find feeders quickly, often on the first day. If they are in the neighborhood, they’ll eventually show up!

 

Fun Facts

  • Orioles are excellent natural pest control. They eat lots of caterpillars, even hairy ones!
  • Pesticides are bad for orioles as well as other birds. Chemicals affect orioles and also eliminate their main food source.
  • Orioles can stick their sharp beak into fruit and then open it to drink fruit juices.
  • Most orioles won’t eat seeds but Audubon’s and Altamira Orioles in southern Texas sometimes visit feeders for sunflower seeds.
  • Baltimore Orioles and other oriole species much prefer dark, ripe fruits over unripe ones.
  • Orioles love orange slices but they can also eat grapes, peaches, and other ripe fruits.
  • In fall and on their wintering grounds, Baltimore Orioles often flock together to feed at fruiting trees, and with other birds.
  • Migrating orioles can feed all day long but are often the first birds at a feeder in the morning.

 

FAQ

What is the best thing to feed Orioles?

The true and tried favorite of orioles is grape jelly and orange slices.

How long do Orioles stay around?

Orioles stay around from May to September. However, Altamira and Audubon’s Orioles stay in southern Texas all year long.

What time of day are Orioles most active?

Orioles are most active in the early morning.

Do orioles like apples?

Orioles do like apples along with many other fruits such as oranges, bananas, and different berries.

Do Orioles eat oranges?

Orioles regularly eat oranges, especially if they have been halved beforehand.

When should you stop feeding Orioles?

You should stop feeding Orioles when the weather gets colder in the fall. By that time, most or all will have migrated south.

What color attracts orioles?

Orioles are attracted to bright orange colors. They can also be attracted to red and other bright colors.

About the Author

Patrick O'Donnell

Patrick O'Donnell has been focused on all things avian since the age of 7. Since then, he has helped with ornithological field work in the USA and Peru, and has guided many birding tours, especially in Costa Rica. He develops birding apps for BirdingFieldGuides and loves to write about birds, especially in his adopted country of Costa Rica.

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