Why Do Orioles Stop Coming To Feeders?

  • Author: Carl
  • Time to read: 5 min.
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Orioles with their vibrant orange feathers brighten up backyards in the US and Canada.

After these birds arrive in Northern America in early spring, many people make regular visitors out of these songbirds.

However, it is not uncommon for these evasive flyers to perform a disappearing act after some time.

So, where do orioles go, and why do they stop coming to feeders?

Read on as we answer below.

What Orioles eat
Orioles diet

Early spring orioles flock feeders with half-cut oranges, grape jelly, and homemade nectar rather than the usual bird seed feed. However, once nesting season starts in summer, they switch from a high-sugar diet to a high protein diet to provide essential nutrients to their newborns. Thus, your feeders need a change from the usual sweet feed to a selection of insects and worms to keep the orioles coming back to feed.

However, if the orioles still do not return to the feeders, despite the changes, it may be because they are busy breeding and feeding the baby birds.

How Does Nesting Season Impact Orioles’ Diet?

We have already discussed that the most common reason orioles may stop visiting feeders they were previously coming to regularly is the beginning of the nesting season, where their diet changes drastically.

But why is this diet change necessary?

After migration, orioles seem eager to lap up the many sweet treats available for them in special feeders.

However, as the month passes and nesting season begins, orioles move from grape jelly to protein-rich foods, like caterpillars.

The protein helps boost the growth of oriole chicks, which adult birds feed until they are ready to provide on their own.

In the beginning, parent orioles regurgitate insects to feed their newborns. However, juvenile orioles may be fed pieces of worms.

When the young ones are ready to leave the nest, they often accompany their parents to feeders to learn how to feed themselves. 

How Can You Attract Orioles To Feeders? Here Are 8 Simple Ways

Even though the change in diet and busy nesting periods are the most probable reasons for orioles to stop visiting feeders, there may be other things that you are doing wrong.

Orioles attractive bird
Attractive Orioles birds

Maybe your feeder is not the right kind, or ants have taken over their sweet feed.

Read below as we discuss some common fixes to attract this elusive bird to your backyard year after year successfully.

1. Use Feeders Specially Made For Orioles

Orioles love bright colors. Thus, their feeders come in orange and red hues.

Moreover, orioles have large tongues, so specific drinking ports and wide perches work best for ease of feeding.

Specially-made feeders also have spaces to skewer ripe fruit for easy access to the bright flyers.

Getting oriole-specific feeders will come with all features required for easy feeding. 

2. Install A Moving Water Source

A moving water source and a shallow birdbath are excellent at attracting orioles.

Adding a bubbler to a terracotta-colored basin adds sparkles that are particularly endearing to these birds.


Always Good Idea: A moving water source is also great for bathing and drinking, essential for all birds, including orioles. Ensure that the basin is shallow but wide enough for the oriole for easy access.  


3. Know The Significance Of Feeder Placement

You find orioles at treetops, so keep feeders in open spaces where flying birds can see them.

Another reason to hang feeders out in the open, rather than busy places in the yard, is that orioles are usually shy and fly away from sites buzzing with human activities.

Orioles feeder in a backyard
Orioles feeder

A more open yet secluded location would attract orioles to the feeders. 

4. Know When to Place Feeders to Attract Orioles

Timing is vital when attracting orioles to your yard.

The rule of thumb is to start early. Tired migrating orioles look for consistent food sources.

If you place out your feeder early on (one to two weeks prior) as the orioles start arriving in spring, there is a good chance that they keep returning to your yard for fresh fruits and sweet treats regularly. 

5. Use The Right Kind of Feed

This is crucial. If you are trying to attract orioles to your yard for the first time, you may not be aware of the kind of feed they like.

Unlike other birds, orioles do not eat the usual sunflower and safflower seeds. Instead, they enjoy eating fresh fruit like oranges and grapes.

They also love lapping up grape jelly. However, the jelly should be fed in moderation, like a treat rather than a feed supplement.

Moreover, orioles, like hummingbirds, love nectar. You can either buy nectar or go for a homemade recipe of four parts water and one part sugar.

Use boiling water to preserve the nectar in your fridge for longer and avoid food coloring additives. 

6. Planting Nectar-Producing Flowers Can Help

Apart from homemade nectar, you can also entice these golden-orange birds to your garden by planting nectar-producing flowers.

Orioles water source in backyard
Orioles water source

While homemade nectar is a great alternative, nothing beats the energy burst from the real thing.

Bright orange sweet-tasting flowers are excellent at tempting orioles to visit your yard.


Helpful Tip: Orioles prefer bright colors, so tying orange ribbons and scavenger tape high up your backyard trees’ branches can lure them to visit your feeders. 


7. Rid Feeders of Pesky Ants

One problem that comes with the high-sugar diet of the orioles is ants (and other insects).

Half-cut fruits and grape jelly understandably attract much more than just orioles.

If not dealt with promptly, these crawling pests can become a nuisance. Use an ant moat and change the feed regularly to avoid it from being contaminated.

Especially made oriole feeders come with ant guards. However, rubbing vegetable oil near the feeding holes works just as well to repel ants and other insects. 

8. Encourage Oriole Nest Building

Since the oriole disappearing act is usually pulled off during the nesting seasons, one trick to keep them coming to your feeders even then apart from switching to a high-protein feed is to encourage them to build nests.

Attractive Oriole on a tree
Attractive Oriole

If you have deciduous trees like oak, cottonwood, and willow, they could provide the perfect canvas for the orioles’ remarkable hanging nests.

You can also offer nest-building materials like strings, plant fibers, vines, and pet fur.


Moreover: Leaving the nests hanging after the birds migrate south for winter encourages them to return to your yard to reuse the material annually. 


Final Thoughts

If orioles suddenly disappear from your feeders, then it may be due to a change in their diet from sugar to protein-rich foods to meet their nesting requirements.

Putting out worms and dehydrated insects can help keep orioles coming even as they breed and care for their young ones.

However, attracting orioles to visit feeders regularly requires patience.

The trick is to keep putting out food and not giving up while making frequent visitors out of these exotic-looking flyers.

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