Simple Tips to Attract Every Oriole Possible
By Chelsea Davis
If you’re like me, you’re bummed that your favorite family of backyard Orioles has flown south in search of warmer weather – one cool night in early fall will do that! I recently put away my Oriole feeder for the winter and shed a tear while replacing it with a year-round thistle feeder that will keep the finches and chickadees busy until spring. Although the daily sightings of beautiful orange birds brightly contrasting the summery green foliage may be over for 2016, it’s a great time to start preparing for the 2017 Oriole Season. Part of your preparation should include thinking about what worked well for you this year and what you might need to add to your “Oriole attraction plan” for next year. Perhaps a fresh, new feeder could do the trick?
Before I uncover the secret to my Oriole attraction success, let me take a minute and admit several things in the event you’re questioning my bird nerdiness. First, I sometimes think one’s interest in birds is genetic, much like height or hair color. Both of my parents are big ‘ol bird nerds. My dad can spot an underwhelming, brown bird from a quarter mile away and identify it correctly 10 times out of 10 (ironically, he requires reading glasses to peruse a restaurant menu). My mom is no less guilty. She completely clears her social schedule around May 1 since that’s when the Orioles arrive in southern Wisconsin and she wouldn’t want to miss the first one on her feeder. Secondly, I once had a date that involved us looking through my coffee table bird book (I keep it handy year round so I can quickly identify an unfamiliar species, of course). I did most of the talking that night. The relationship didn’t work out. It’s fine. Finally, I nearly drove off a freeway on-ramp one afternoon as I gazed up at a bald eagle flying above my car. That was my “come to Jesus” moment; I was definitely a bird nerd.
Now that I’ve proven myself, let me share with you the secret to my (and my mom’s) Oriole-attracting success: GRAPE JELLY. (Before you ask, no, Orioles don’t care if the jelly is expensive, store brand, organic, or locally sourced. They just care if it’s grape. So buy grape.) I’m not kidding when I tell you that my mom went through 55 jumbo jars of grape jelly during 2015 Oriole Season. That’s her personal record (this year, she only dished out 46 jumbo jars – a good effort, but nothing to write home about). She has to maintain three separate feeders around the yard to accommodate her daily herd of Orioles. We always joke that she’ll be the one to blame if there’s a diabetes epidemic in the southern Wisconsin Oriole community. While that’s a funny thought, it also might be true…
The feeders we use are simple. As long as there’s a spot for the jelly, the Orioles will find it! They’re also attracted to the color orange. You can see in the images below that we’ve removed the clear plastic sides from simple wooden feeders and have placed a small container of jelly inside. Both feeders are also sporting some orange – my mom painted orange circles on the roof of her feeder and I hammered in a couple of nails so I could pop on some fresh orange slices. Both options have worked well, but I’ve found the Orioles don’t really eat the orange slices – the jelly is what they’re after.
So now you know where to start, but are you concerned you can’t attract Orioles because of your location? Think again. I’ve lived in several busy, suburban apartment complexes. At each one, I had a small deck and I attached a hook to the railing. I hung the same style of feeder and waited patiently for them to arrive. While you might not see the same number of Orioles as you would in a woodsy setting, they’re there, and they’re hungry! You might also notice house finches or even robins gobbling up some jelly. They’re kind of like that wedding guest who, although not invited, shows up to the reception anyway. In that case, you’ll have to pick your battles – if they’re fun, let them stay.