7 Natural Ways to Entice Orioles to Your Yard

Male Northern Oriole singing way up high in a tree.
Male Northern Oriole singing way up high in a tree. | Source
Female Northern Oriole looking for insects on the tree leaves.
Female Northern Oriole looking for insects on the tree leaves. | Source

Did you know

that the Baltimore Oriole was named for the Baltimore family of England whose crest contains the same colors? It is also the State Bird of Maryland, the capitol being named for the same English family.

This robin-sized cousin of the blackbird, grackle and cowbird measures 7” to 8-½” from beak to tail. It sports a black hood over its head and neck, brilliant orange back and breast, black and orange tail and black wings with white wing bars. (Latin name: Icterus Galbula).

The female Northern Oriole is a duller orange below and olive green on top with black wings and white wing bars. The long pointed black beak is well suited to piercing fruit and insects. Young Northern Orioles will resemble their mother, being olive yellow brown above, and a yellowish orange color below. Two white wing bars are easy to see on both the females and the juvenile orioles.

Oriole Singing and Foraging

The oriole’s song matches its physical beauty with flutelike whistling notes, which vary within each song and with each individual. If there is trouble, orioles sound an alarm by chattering excitedly. They spend their winters in South America, but migrate northward as far as Canada in spring and return to their South American digs in the autumn.


Northern (Baltimore) Oriole Range Map

Map illustrates how far Northern Orioles migrate from Canada to South America and back again.  Blue indicates their breeding range, while the red shows their winter destinations.
Map illustrates how far Northern Orioles migrate from Canada to South America and back again. Blue indicates their breeding range, while the red shows their winter destinations. | Source

Preferred habitat includes open woodlands and river side forest edges, farmlands and parks with fruit trees, nectar flowers and low-growing shrubs; also grassy meadows edged with tall trees.

Crab apples trees are favorites of Orioles, and many other fruit-eating birds.
Crab apples trees are favorites of Orioles, and many other fruit-eating birds. | Source

Provide the Basics -- food, water, nesting material and shelter

1. Food: A grape arbor and or fruit trees would provide shelter and food as well as beauty to your landscape. Consider also planting blueberries, raspberries, elderberries or dark cherry varieties. Our old mulberry tree was a very favorite spot for the orioles, as was the neighbors’ crab apple tree.

2. Plant a Vegetable Garden. The insects that love your vegetable garden are highly prized by orioles and lots of other insect-loving birds. No toxic pesticide is necessary!


Red Columbines attract all kinds of nectar-loving birds, including orioles and hummingbirds.
Red Columbines attract all kinds of nectar-loving birds, including orioles and hummingbirds. | Source

3. Any nectar-yielding flowers will be relished by your orioles. They enjoy many of the same flowers that hummingbirds do. Plant coral honeysuckle, columbine, penstemons, monkey flowers, fuschias, salvias, bee balm and catmint.

Use grape jelly or strawberry jam in a small cup to attract Orioles.
Use grape jelly or strawberry jam in a small cup to attract Orioles. | Source

4. Cutting an orange or apple in half and hanging it from a tree is a well-known way to call orioles to the table. But did you know that they absolutely love grape jelly and strawberry jam? Offer them in tiny cups, no more than 2 tablespoons at a time. Otherwise their wings may become mired in the sticky goo rendering them unable to fly.

Orange Marmalade, Elderberry Jam, Black Raspberry Jam, and Apricot Preserves are also fun to serve to the orioles. I have heard that Pink Grapefruit cut in half will also please them. Experiment to see what your orioles like best. There are lots of fruits that are prized by colorful migratory birds like orioles, grosbeaks, buntings and cedar waxwings.

Orioles love to take frequent baths.
Orioles love to take frequent baths. | Source

5. Water: if you aren’t lucky enough to have a river or nearby stream, pond or pool, orioles will be just as happy with a water fountain or bird bath. Just as long as it is large enough for them to bathe on a regular basis, they will be happy. Just like catbirds, they love to take baths! Orioles will use a water feature or fountain numerous times in a day, particularly if there is dripper or bubbler attachment. If it sounds like a babbling brook, lots of birds will investigate and enjoy the water!

A small grassy meadow will yield lots of nesting goodies for all kinds of birds, plus a good source of insects!
A small grassy meadow will yield lots of nesting goodies for all kinds of birds, plus a good source of insects! | Source
Northern Oriole Eggs
Northern Oriole Eggs | Source

Nesting Material

6. Make sure you have a grassy area from which the orioles can glean their nesting material. A small meadow planted with native grasses and wildflowers would be ideal. Also include teasel and or milkweed for their nest inner liner. Or refrain from mowing a small patch of your lawn during the nesting season in spring. Try cutting short lengths (about 2” to 3“) of clean soft cotton yarn, and hang them from shrub and tree branches.

Orioles lay between 3 and 6 bluish-gray eggs that have irregular dark brown or black markings.

If a cowbird should lay an egg in an oriole nest, the oriole mom is strong enough and smart enough to kick it out onto the ground below! They are not about to raise another bird's baby.

It takes about 2 weeks for the orioles to hatch from their eggs, and about the same amount of time before the fledglings take flying lessons from their parents.

Northern Oriole Nest
Northern Oriole Nest | Source

Their unusual nests are made in 3 stages using grass, plant fibers, plant down and spider webs. The end product is a 5” to 7" sturdy, flexible pouch large enough to accommodate all the babies. I remember when I was a child, every year there was a Baltimore oriole nest hanging at the end of an Elm tree branch about 25 feet in the air right over the dirt road on which we lived. I used to worry that the babies would fall through the nest and be killed on the road below. I was unaware then how strong and flexible oriole nests are. The nests are never re-used, orioles build fresh ones every year.

Choke cherries are a weed tree that orioles also love to nest in. They lined the back of our property and were filled with all kinds of birds, because they also grew on the edge of a swampy area. Next to that was a field of black raspberries.

Holly bush provides lots of nooks and crannies in which to shelter and hide.  It also has tasty berries birds love to eat.
Holly bush provides lots of nooks and crannies in which to shelter and hide. It also has tasty berries birds love to eat. | Source

7. Fruit bearing shrubs for food and shelter: even if you do not have tall deciduous trees nearby, orioles will use dense shrubs or regular fruit trees in which to nest. This is true especially if you offer all their favorite foods. Also plant low-growing shrubs, keeping them close together--no more than 4 feet apart in mass plantings. Use holly, cotoneaster, hawthorn, viburnum, weigelas and pyracanthas for example.

Birds’ habitats in general and orioles’ in particular are shrinking due to deforestation and human urban sprawl. By crafting havens for birds like the colorful Northern Oriole, our backyards can serve to replenish some of that lost habitat. The colorful beauty and lovely songs make for an oasis for humans as well.

Do Orioles Visit Your Yard or Gardens?

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Male Northern Oriole stretching tall to get a better view of his territory!
Male Northern Oriole stretching tall to get a better view of his territory! | Source

More by this Author


Do You Have Any Tricks to Attract Orioles? 10 comments

Derdriu 4 years ago

GrandmaPearl, What a charming, lively, practical look at what Baltimore orioles look for when scouting people's yards! Me too, I find that the elm and mulberry trees as well as the berry thicket near the vernal pool and the teasle patch in the south meadow really draw in Baltimore orioles. Their song is such a welcome note to spring!

Welcome to HubPages!

Respectfully, and with many thanks for sharing the information and the video, Derdriu


dappledesigns profile image

dappledesigns 4 years ago from In Limbo between New England and the Midwest

What a great hub! We have been trying to get Orioles for a few years now... this will definitely come in handy!


Betsy 4 years ago

Great article, Connie!


rsusan profile image

rsusan 4 years ago from South Africa

Hi, Connie! Very interesting hub! What a beautiful little bird. Wish we had them here. Very good, practical advice for folks who can look forward to enjoy having orioles in their gardens!


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Derdriu, thank you for the lovely comments and gracious welcome. I am so pleased that you found the video and information useful. I have ordered a mulberry tree to add to my yard. I know at least 40 different bird species love the fruit of this tree. Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment. It is certainly appreciated.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi dappledesigns, I am very glad you found the information helpful. You will love the colorful beauty and joyful song of these wonderful birds. Thank you for your supportive comments. I am happy you stopped by and I appreciate your kind words.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Thank you Betsy! You have always been very supportive, and it is very much appreciated!


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Rika, So nice to hear from you. Thanks for stopping by and for your great comments. You and I share a mutual appreciation for all birds, no matter what part of the world we live in. Maybe someday I'll get the chance to visit different places and see totally different birds. What a joy that would be! Thank you.


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 4 years ago from East Coast, United States

I love Baltimore Orioles, such a beautiful bird and a lovely song! I am not one to put out anything sugary as I just know that the ants will come marching. But I think I'll try that next year. We've had so many wonderful birds in our yard, but have not seen an oriole out there yet. And I know they are in our area. Lovely hub. Voted up and tweeted.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi Dolores. You know what? Even if the ants do come along, the orioles will snack on them as well! I'm very glad you found this useful. If you have your oriole enticements in place by late spring, the orioles in the area should find them. But be patient, they will eventually see anything that is bright orange in their territory and be drawn to it. I wish you lots of success! And thank you so much for stopping by and commenting; also for voting and sharing. It is very much appreciated.

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    Connie Smith (grandmapearl)240 Followers
    60 Articles

    Connie knows how very important natural habitats are to our bird populations. That's why she loves bird friendly flowers, shrubs and trees.



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