Your site for tips, tools and tweaks for attracting and enjoying glorious orioles! This is not meant to be a scientific site.
We just want to share our love For The Birds!
We'll fill you in on time-tested tricks, give you suggestions about successful feeders and even answer your questions about how you can create an oriole haven in your own backyard.
While we are located in the Midwestern U.S.A. and usually only see Northern (Baltimore) Orioles and Orchard Orioles, we welcome ideas and input from oriole lovers across the miles.
We first became interested in these magnificent birds back in the 60's. There were plenty of nests in the elm trees that lined the streets of our hometown, De Pere, Wisconsin and we would eagerly put out orange halves every spring to catch a glimpse of the beauties. Then, Dutch Elm disease took its' toll in more ways than we could count. As the city (and so many throughout the nation) began to spray DDT with little success in destroying these pests, and the trees succumbed to the disease, orioles became scarce. We don't know of any studies that prove the effects of the DDT on the orioles specifically, but it is safe to say that the combination of losing their favorite nesting trees and being sprayed with horrific chemicals indeed took a tragic toll.
The remaining orioles adapted to new trees, particularly cottonwoods and willows and went about doing what birds (and bees) do...eventually coming back in numbers where we could again enjoy the sweet singers all summer long.
Every spring at our nature store, For The Birds, we get hundreds of people in asking about how they can bring in orioles and create happy habitat for them. The following pages will share what we have learned over the years and, hopefully, share the joy of these beautiful, fragile gems.
Northern and Orchard Orioles in the upper Midwest usually arrive about a week to ten days after the first hummingbirds. You can track the hummingbirds arrivals (and chart your own sightings) at www.hummingbirds.net. Lanny Chambers has created a fabulous site to monitor the migrations of hummingbirds and by checking the information from last year you can figure out when you should expect them based on your location. We hope, someday to create a similar site for the orioles.
Before they arrive you want to make sure you have created what we like to call an ORIOLE RUNWAY for them. By placing about six or eight orange halves along a fence, across a picnic table or simply filling one tree with the orange halves, you catch their attention and offer them food. After a long and often difficult migration, a bunch of oranges must look like a grand buffet! You can also add some orange ribbons around your yard to create interest. While the neighbors might think you are crazy, the orioles will think you are really cool.
We've found that orioles seem to like to eat the orange halves at first, then transition to grape jelly after a few days in the neighborhood. Also, if you're not in an area where the birds will stay for the season (if you're not near the right habitat) you'll get plenty of them stopping over for a few days to build up energy for the continuing journey. The right habitat seems to be along or within a mile of waterways and ponds, cottonwood lowlands and established forests. As cities are starting to put more retention ponds in new areas, these will hopefully grow up into more desirable habitats. Although these might be preferred areas, we have seen them almost anywhere and with wild birds, exceptions become part of the rules.
Once you have determined that there are orioles in your neighborhood, and you've had the orange halves out for a week, then get the jelly feeder going strong. They tend to bicker and protect feeding sites, so having four or five feeders out can help you spread the joy. We often place them where they are not in sight of each other, making feeding stations on all sides of the store. We make sure we have a few nectar feeders out around the stations and, we stop feeding seed to the other birds during this time to make the yard more oriole friendly. Keeping the starlings and grackles away really lets the orioles know you're serious! The finches will work on your jelly supply so keep your finch feeders full to distract them.
About your jelly selection; some people swear that jam is best, some people even use orange marmalade or mix the marmalade into the jelly. We are most satisfied with using mid-grade grape jelly. The cheapest ones tend to be clearer and contain less actual grape and more fake grape stuff...our studies show that the birds prefer more grape taste. They also will pick last year's raisins off the wild grape vines so they must really relish anything grapey. We have experimented with all flavors and brands and it seems regular grape jelly is the best.
Now, here's a secret. If you're going away for the weekend, ask a neighbor to keep your jelly dishes full. In our experience even ONE day without jelly can cause your birds to move on to more fruitful pastures. At our store we have had as many as 40 orioles feeding at a time at the various stations. Some move on so we average out to 25-30 a summer and with the broods born and brought to the feeders, we're back up to high numbers before the fall migration.
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