Baltimore orioles (Icterus galbula) are one of the most desirable backyard birds, with their brilliant black and orange plumage and sweet, clear song. They can also be one of the hardest to attract and keep around all summer.
However, with a combination of different elements, you should be able to draw them in and persuade them to make your yard their home.
1. Get Baltimore Oriole Feeders Up Early
Baltimore orioles love warm weather, so throughout most of their range in central and eastern North America, they are only around for 4 months or so, arriving with balmy spring temperatures and departing before things cool down in the fall.
When they arrive in your area depends on how soon things warm up, so check with local birders to find out when you can expect them, and then get your feeders up a couple of weeks before that date.
They’re going to be ravenous after their long flight north, and need lots of high-calorie food right away. If they can’t find it on your property, they’ll move on, and may never return that year!
2. Baltimore Orioles Love Sugar Water
When the Baltimore orioles first arrive on their northward migration, they are going to need a quick hit of concentrated energy, and sugar water is the easiest way to provide that essential for them.
You can buy feeders designed for these birds. They’re usually orange because that color is especially attractive to Baltimore orioles.
Don’t waste your money buying pre-mixed nectars or powders for the sugar syrup. Simply boil 4 cups of water with one cup of sugar, let it cool, and fill the feeder. You can store any extra in a jar in the fridge.
Don’t add food coloring to the syrup; it’s not necessary and adds chemicals. Also, don’t substitute honey for the sugar, as it can spoil easily.
3. Fresh Fruit For Baltimore Orioles
Don’t stop with sugar syrup, however. Baltimore orioles enjoy other treats, and will be much more likely to hang around if you offer them additional sources of energy.
Orange halves are a classic, for instance. In fact, many commercial Baltimore oriole feeders have spikes for you to secure those fresh fruit treats. They’ll also happily eat grapes and berries.
4. Dish Up Some Grape Jelly
Another popular feeder food for Baltimore orioles is grape jelly. Blend it with an equal amount of water until smooth, and then use either small cups or commercial feeders designed for this purpose.
Grape jelly and oranges are likely to be most in demand when they’ve first arrived in spring, and then again when they’re getting ready to fly south at the end of their breeding season.
Monitor how fast these get consumed, and stop when they’re attracting more ants and bees than birds.
5. Suet Feeders For Baltimore Orioles
We don’t usually think of suet when considering food sources for Baltimore orioles, but sometimes, when given the choice of a nectar feeder or a block of suet, they’ll choose the latter.
Suet with lots of fruit is going to be an especially big hit with Baltimore orioles.
If you can get no-melt formula suet you can leave it out all summer to feed birds, but otherwise, take it down when you start to see things melting in hot weather. They’ll have lots of other food sources available by then.
6. Baltimore Orioles Need Insects
Especially once breeding season starts, Baltimore orioles will need good protein sources in addition to sugars, and insects are their preferred choice.
This is a win-win for both you and the birds; they get to eat lots of delicious bugs, and you get a natural method of pest control.
In fact, if you want to encourage birds of all sorts to your yard, it’s best not to use pesticides to control insect populations.
Removing that vital food source from the environment will cause Baltimore orioles to head elsewhere to build their nests and raise their hungry children.
Of course, you can also supplement your feeder offerings with fresh or dried mealworms, which will be much appreciated by Baltimore orioles.
7. Flowering Trees And Shrubs To Attract Baltimore Orioles
Flowering trees, vines, and shrubs can provide 2 good food sources for Baltimore orioles.
When their flowers open, the blossoms are an excellent natural source of nectar, and if they set fruits such as berries, they will be eaten up later in the season.
It’s a good idea to select different species to provide a summer-long buffet of various flowers for Baltimore orioles. For instance, a magnolia will blossom in May, honeysuckles in June, trumpet flowers in July, and the rose of Sharon in August.
Orioles will happily drink up the nectar of all these plants and many more.
8. Install A Bird Bath
Baltimore orioles are attracted to water sources, both for drinking and bathing. If you set up a bird bath in your yard, you’ll find many different bird species hanging out around it.
Even better, add a bubbler to the bird bath, as the sparkling water will be even more of a bird magnet.
Just be sure to place it somewhere where cats will not be able to get to the bathing birds, and maintain a level of 2 to 3 inches of clean water in the basin.
9. Habitat For Nesting Baltimore Orioles
Now that you have taken care of food and water, it’s time to consider where Baltimore orioles can take up residence in your yard.
Orioles will not nest in birdhouses, and prefer to build their nests high up in deciduous trees with lots of leaf cover. Their favorite species are maple, oak, sycamore, and elm.
If you’re living in a new subdivision with few or no mature trees, it’s going to be harder to keep Baltimore orioles around through their breeding season. Try planting a few quick-growing poplar trees to speed up the process.
10. Provide Some Nesting Materials
A Baltimore oriole nest is a masterpiece of weaving, with hundreds of tightly-woven strands of grass, bark, and whatever else the female can find to make her home.
You can help her out by leaving an assortment of natural fibers such as wool or cotton yarn, hair, and string in a suet feeder or a net bag such as an onion bag.
11. Draw Them In With Orange Hues
Finally, take a cue from the brilliant color of male Baltimore orioles, and splash orange liberally throughout your landscape!
This can include orange flowers, orange gazing balls, garden furniture, or even strips of orange surveyor’s tape tied on branches or railings.