Unlike the vast majority of tools and garden accessories, when it comes to feeding orioles, there is a pretty simple set of answers when it comes to choosing the best oriole feeders.
Most reviews we write take into account the needs of the gardener, and the jobs they need to do, but with oriole feeders, it’s all about caring for your wildlife, so the only question you should be asking is “what is the best oriole feeder for orioles”.
In this article, we’re going to explain what Orioles need, why they need it and how you can choose an oriole feeder that provides it all.
Best Oriole Feeders for 2022
What are Orioles?
New World Orioles are colorful birds in the Icterus genus of the blackbird family. They are effective feeders but sadly, thanks to intensive farming creating vast monocultures on land where they live.
Some of the thirty-three species are endangered with one, the black and yellow Bahama Oriole, now listed as critically endangered.
Orioles are intelligent birds, closely related to blackbirds, but often confused with Old World orioles, and European species, which are visually similar, but with no genetic relationship to the New World oriole.
Where Do Orioles Live?
New world Orioles are spread evenly across the entire North and South American continents, with none migratory birds seen as far north as Canada, and the Variable oriole known to nest as far south as Argentina.
As non-migratory birds they do not travel and have never spread beyond this continent, so as we continue to deforest and create immense monocultures of fruit orchards and palm oil plantations, we need to do everything we can across the Americas to support this species.
What Do Orioles Eat?
Orioles have a diet that consists mostly of insects, but fruit and flower nectars are a key part of their diet. New World orioles are distinctive birds that are capable of digesting almost any food, but they have distinct preferences and can be particularly picky birds.
They are widely reported to eat flower buds, but like their relatives the blackbird, they are much more likely to be eating the ants that feed on honeydew around flower buds than the buds themselves.
Their main sugar source is nectar and fruit, with a preference for sweet, open, flowers and ripe oranges, though they will tolerate apples, peaches, berries and bananas if you don’t want to part with the entire contents of your fruit bowl.
The 5 Most Common Oriole Species in America
1. Baltimore Oriole
The Baltimore oriole is found most commonly around the eastern coast of the United States of America and got its name from its colouring rather than its location.
They are a common species in North America and were named for their colours, which correspond to the coat of arms of the 17th century Lord Baltimore.
Their sunburst orange chest blends neatly into a yellow stomach, with distinct white markings across its wings and plain black eyes.
2. Orchard Oriole
The Orchard oriole is a much duller bird than most of its cousins, with a dusty russet breast, a sooty hood, and markings on its wings that are more of a faded grey than white like most American orioles.
The adult male orchard oriole carries the distinctive russet orange breast, while the females are a buttery lemon yellow across their front, and slightly harder to distinguish from other New World orioles if it weren’t for their black bib, which covers their eyes, beak, and chin.
3. Bullock’s Oriole
At one time the Bullock’s oriole was considered to be the same species as the Baltimore oriole, so you’d be forgiven for confusing the two, but the fiery yellow and single white flash across the wings of the Bullock’s oriole set it apart from its relative.
The males are much brighter than the females, but female Bullock’s orioles are an exquisitely delicate white across their bellies, fading to a gentle pale yellow on their throat and heads.
Bullock’s orioles are canopy birds and need tall perches to feel comfortable in a garden. In city spaces, you’ll usually find them on aerials and wires, looking for their next meal.
4. Hooded Oriole
The hooded oriole are slightly more slender than most, and typically found around California, where they build nests in palm trees, happily living alongside humans, in stark contrast to most of the genus.
They feed widely on fruit and are amongst the easiest orioles to find in your garden with the right food source and the best oriole feeders installed.
5. Yellow Oriole
The yellow oriole is most common in South America, breeding in Columbia and spreading out across the continent during the year. Their bills are better adapted for nectar, so they enjoy sugar water alongside any fruit you can provide for them.
They are less common than most orioles, but their yellow shoulders are unique and if you can tempt them into your garden, well worth the effort.
Oriole Feeders Buyer’s Guide
What are Oriole Feeders?
The best oriole feeders are designed to accommodate the changing diet of New World orioles, birds whose diets change across the seasons, and jump from insects, fruits and nectar depending on their energy levels, and – without anthropomorphising them – when they’re planning a big journey.
Orioles need nectar, fruit, and seeds, and are fast to learn what gardeners (and gardeners) provide all three. The best oriole feeders are those that have seed compartments, sugar water dispensers, and fruit spikes.
How to Use an Oriole Feeder
What is The Best Fruit for an Oriole Feeder?
Oranges are the best fruit for an oriole feeder by far. They are a great source of sugar, and they replicate their natural feeding most closely. What you will notice when you put out your oriole feeder is that these birds tend to avoid the fruit in spring and summer, preferring nectar in the early parts of the year.
If you consider how orioles would feed in nature, and the growth habits of citrus fruits, they grow, develop and ripen through spring and summer, and continue to ripen, and sweeten over autumn and winter.
Orioles know the best time for sweeter, riper oranges, so make do with spring and summer nectar (or sugar water) until later in the year.
Where to Place an Oriole Feeder
Oriole feeders are best placed in high, but accessible places, under the canopy of a tree, or tall shrub. Orioles tend to prefer to feed out of the open, so standard bird feeding stations in the center of a lawn are unlikely to attract orioles.
By placing an oriole feeder amongst leaves, it will be accessible to you, hidden from predators, and more likely to attract orioles to stay and feed for a while, rather than grab and go.
How to Attract Orioles to an Oriole Feeder
Even in spring and summer, when orioles are less likely to want fruit, and more reliant on insects and nectar, they are notably more attracted to the color orange.
Whether it’s an instinct they have to maintain the plumage, or whether they have an innate drive toward orange trees (which after all, have sweet nectar as well as wonderful fruit).
Orange oriole feeders are more likely to attract orioles, but better yet, make sure to keep oranges on regular supply, or peaches. In spring, the sweet nectar of peaches can be a great replica for natural plant nectars for garden birds too.
What Other Birds use Oriole Feeders?
While oriole feeders are designed with New World orioles in mind, they will also be visited by some uninvited guests. Other birds that use oriole feeders include; Hummingbirds, Red-shafted Flickers, Yellow-shafted flickers, Robins, Thrushes, Cactus Wrens, Blue jay and Catbirds.
Most of those birds will be after the fruit, but hummingbirds are voracious nectar feeders, but they prefer to feed while in flight, so having tray feeders for orioles and drip feeders for hummingbirds is a good way to feed both without territorial problems.
What to Look for When Buying an Oriole Feeder
Best Feeding Types of Oriole Feeder
Firstly, any oriole feeder worth buying should be orange. Beyond that, oriole feeders should have a nectar bowl with a fruit spike as an absolute minimum, and a covered, or drained seed bowl topped the best oriole feeders have all three food options available; nectar, insect, fruit.
The nectar feeding station should ideally be a dipping bowl, with holes large enough for their relatively small beaks to drink through, as drip type nectar feeders attract hummingbirds and other nectar-feeding birds.
Best Perch Size for an Oriole Feeder
Oriole feeders should have a roof and no perches. Orioles are happy to land on almost any material and don’t need gripping places, whereas their competitors do.
By choosing an oriole feeder with a smooth surface, or limited perches, you prevent bigger fruit feeding birds like blue jays from stealing all the food.
How to Clean an Oriole Feeder
Oriole feeders should be cleaned every time they are refilled. Whether it's orioles or other birds visiting your feeders, they are all carriers of avian influenza, and while most strains of the virus don’t affect humans, it spreads rapidly between bird species.
To help maintain a healthy population of garden birds, and limit the spread of disease, all bird feeders, but particularly oriole feeders should be cleaned every time they are filled.
The easiest way to clean them is to drench them in soapy water, and then hose them down. If oriole feeders are significantly dirty, scrub them clean with soapy water before rinsing.
It doesn’t need to be a thorough job, but you should never put a feeder back up with droppings, old feathers, or old nectar residue still sticking to the side.
Best Oriole Feeder Reviews
Sumo Gardener Top Picks for 2022
Top Rated Oriole Feeder
The Solution4Patio Baltimore Oriole Feeder Hummingbird Combination has literally everything you could ever need in an oriole feeder, whether you’re after Baltimore orioles, or feeding New World orioles further afield.
With its generous horizontal feeding nectar reservoir, it’s uniquely suited to orioles, and its jelly pots can be used for mealworm or seeds, with four fruit spikes too.
It’s a lot to keep on top of, but for serious bird watchers, this is a great way to attract these colorful orioles into your garden.
Best Value Oriole Feeder
I just love this oriole feeder from egghat. Egghat Metal Oriole Feeder is a wireframe, so it’s suitable for all sorts of garden birds, which does make it a less effective oriole feeder (they can sometimes be put off by other birds), but it’s good looking, it’s easy to use, easy to clean, and you can swap and change the food with simple cups for nectar, jelly or mealworm, and two easy spikes for orange slices too.
You can get a lot for your money here, and egghat have made the best budget oriole feeder we can find.
Premium Choice Oriole Feeder
The adjustable roof on Twinkle Star Oriole Bird Feeder makes it really adaptable for all sorts of birds, but the best part is that you add in, or take away any part of the feeding set-up at any time of year.
So in winter and spring, you can fill the reservoir with nectar, and include a cup of jelly with your fruit, but when it comes to summer and your garden orioles need more protein, you can switch it up and remove the sugars, and all mealworms instead.
Oriole Feeders FAQs
Do orioles scare off other birds?
Orioles aren’t known as territorial or aggressive birds but they will defend their regular food sources from other birds. Provided you have enough bird feeding stations in your garden to provide for all the wildlife then you shouldn’t have any problems.
Can orioles use hummingbird feeders?
Orioles can drink from hummingbird feeders as long as they have perches included. Orioles can’t feed while they hover like hummingbirds, so it’s best to provide them with a dedicated oriole feeding station.
When should you stop feeding orioles?
Orioles should have limited sugar from late spring or summer, and be provided with fruit, and insects instead. As they begin to rear young they need protein rather than instant energy hits to make it through the winter.
Why do orioles stop visiting feeders in summer?
From late spring and summer, you’ll notice a drop in orioles drinking from sugar and fruit feeders for a few months. The birds instinctively begin feeding on protein to bulk up, both for winter, and to nurse their young chicks.
You can support Orioles by changing their feeder to a mealworm feeder in late spring and summer.
Get the Best Oriole Feeder for Your Garden
Orioles are one of the rare privileges of gardening in the Americas. Yes, there are tropical birds that won’t migrate overseas, but most garden birds are distributed all over the world, so orioles are our own unique treasure.
The best oriole feeders are always going to be those with more varied food on offer, and more natural orange colors to attract these beautiful birds, but make sure you buy an oriole feeder you can clean easily, know how to use, and can hang easily from a well-planned tree.