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Feeding Orioles

Iron Oak FarmThe Baltimore Oriole is one of my favorite songbirds. The brilliant orange color is like a flash of sunlight in the sky. Not only are orioles beautiful to look at, they have a lovely twirling song.

Attracting orioles to your yard is fun and easy. We draw orioles in five different ways.

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1. Oranges
Orioles love oranges. An orange sliced in half, suspended on a nail will keep orioles coming back for more.

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2. Grape Jelly
Grape jelly is probably the best way to attract orioles. Our orioles always eat the jelly first. I get the convenient squeeze bottles and I just squirt a bit into the dish.

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3. An Oriole Feeder
Orioles are attracted to the color orange. Many feed stores and garden supply stores sell feeders designed to attract orioles.

You can also purchase oriole food. It’s usually a powder or a concentrate liquid that you mix with water; usually a 1 to 4 ratio. Store-bought oriole food is orange flavored and has added calcium to ensure strong eggshells and healthy chicks. Refrigerate extra syrup.

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You can also make your own nectar. This recipe will work for hummingbird feeders as well.

Oriole Nectar

1 cup sugar
4 cups water

Boil on the stove top for a few minutes. Let cool and pour into the feeder. Refrigerate extra.

Be sure to keep your feeder clean by washing it at least every week. Change out the syrup every few days, especially during hot weather so it doesn’t spoil.

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4. Water Source
Orioles love to take baths and ruffle their feathers around in the water. We have a small stream that runs through our yard that the orioles love to splash in. A bird bath would do the same trick.

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5. Suet Cakes
I found orange flavored suet cakes at a feed store and our orioles went crazy for them. You can also provide regular suet. They won’t devour them like the orange flavored ones, but they will take a taste or two.

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Jelly and Orange Feeder

A simple open side box structure can provide a convenient feeding station for your orioles.

I made a small house out of scrap wood and drove two long nails through the bottom board; one to hold a halved orange and the other to hold a plastic dish in place for jelly. I painted the roof orange to tell the orioles that food was here!

My mom saw how effective my house was and asked for her own for her birthday. We made hers a little more elaborate.

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I painted the roof with orange slices and orange blossoms.

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My husband is a blacksmith so he made some fancy twisted perches ...

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... and places to drive a half orange on either side.

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We also cut a hold in the bottom board to fit a small cat dish to fill with jelly.

Here is the plans for my first, more simple Oriole Feeding Station design. By all means add all the frills you like! 

5-inch-by-3/4-inch-by-6-feet treated pine board
1 1/4-inch brad nails
2 - 2-inch nails
2 galvanized screws or eye hook for hanging
Screw driver
2 feet wire
Small plastic dish
Orange acrylic paint
Paint brush

Cut the board into five pieces according to the diagram below.

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Nail the two sides to the top of the floor board driving the nails from the bottom into the ends of the sides. Line up the roof so that the 4 1/4-inch piece fits into the longer piece so the roof is symmetrical. Nail down. Drive two of the longer nails into the floor board, one to hold a halved orange, the other to keep the plastic dish in place. Carefully push the nail through the bottom of the dish. Fix eyehooks or screws to the ends of the roof and attach the wire to hang. Paint the roof orange to advertise that “Oriole food is here!”

Feeding Tips

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If you’re in northern climates like us, you can start to hang your oriole feeders as early as late April. This will attract migrating orioles coming up from the south.

Keep your feeders filled consistently. If the orioles find the feeder empty, they often move on in search of other food and won’t come back.

Squirrel deterrent

We have a cute little gray squirrel that loves to lap up the grape jelly in our Oriole Feeder. And while I don’t mind feeding the squirrels, I have to save the jelly for our orioles. There are many different cones and various contraptions on the market designed to keep squirrels off of bird feeders.