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Most orioles do not winter in the United States, but return during the breeding season. There are 8 species of orioles that breed in the United States. The two most widespread species are the Baltimore Oriole and Orchard Oriole in the East and the Bullock's Oriole in the West. Orioles can be attracted to your backyard with food and nesting materials.
Orioles often eat fruit and can be attracted with orange halves placed on platform feeders, a deck railing, or nailed to a tree. It is important to have the oranges available just as the orioles arrive, which is around April 1st in the South and April 15th to May 1st in the northern half of the country. Some orioles seem to be more attracted to oranges when they first return from their wintering areas but switch to an insect diet soon after. Other orioles seem to eat oranges throughout their breeding season.
Orioles also may use special sugar water feeders because sugar water is similar to the flower nectar on which orioles naturally feed. Some oriole sugar water feeders are colored orange and have large perches to accommodate the birds. Orioles may also use hummingbird feeders. Fill the feeders with a solution of either 1 part white sugar to 4 parts water or 1 part white sugar to 6 parts water; both seem to attract orioles. Boil the solution for 1-2 minutes, then cool. Change the solution every 2 days in hot weather.
In addition to fruit and sugar water, orioles can be attracted to grape jelly and mealworms. Offer the jelly in a small dish placed on a platform. Mealworms can be placed in a small container, but make sure it has straight sides that are high enough (about 1 1/2 to 2 inches), enough so that the mealworms cannot climb out. Mealworms are found in pet stores and wild bird stores. Many orioles feed the mealworms to their nestlings, who require a good protein source.
Orioles weave nests of natural plant fibers and will also use lengths of string cut into 8-12 inch pieces. You can put the string in a wire suet basket, drape it over shrubs, or lay it in the open where orioles will see it. Orioles nest in trees in suburban areas, parks, forest edges, and along rivers.
To learn much more about attracting and enjoying orioles, see our new Stokes Oriole Book.