When to Start Attracting Orioles to Your Yard

Although the Baltimore oriole, best known of these species, generally stays east of the Rocky Mountains, the West hosts two kinds of this vibrant birds: Bullock’s oriole and the hooded oriole. Yearly, they come back to this region, starting in March, to build nests and raise families, after wintering in Mexico and Central America. All these songbirds may be elusive, and the chance to see one does not last long, as they migrate south again in August.

Migratory Habits of Orioles

Bullock’s oriole, named for a pioneering ornithologist, is plentiful in most of the U.S. western countries during breeding time from early spring until August. Nesting in the canopies of tall deciduous trees, the birds come to the ground searching for their food favorites, grasshoppers and caterpillars. During migration and winter, Bullock’s orioles may collect in small flocks, but other times, they usually forage alone. The hooded oriole, which takes its title from the male’s orange hood, downstairs in open areas with scattered trees, particularly palms. Once exclusive to this desert Southwest, hooded orioles, in recent years, have been expanding northward in California for breeding. Generally, they arrive during March and migrate to Mexico in August.

Oriole Attractants

Orange, the shade and the fruit, lures the birds. Since orioles prefer exactly the same nectar formulation as hummingbirds, hang an orange ribbon from the feeder so that it is easily seen. Orioles’ invoices are often too large for your own washing vents in hummingbird feeders, but specialized feeders for orioles are commercially available. Place cut orange halves on a branch or flat bird feeder. Orioles also like grape jelly, which is set from a dish or cup. Don’t conceal a feeder under the eave; put it in the open where birds flying overhead may spot it. Hang it near a water feature, if you have one. Orioles are attracted to the sight and sound of moving water. Maintaining up your feeders for two weeks after you see the final of this first group of guests helps you to attract any migrating stragglers.

Coaxing the Birds to Nest Nearby

If you aspire to encourage the orioles to perform more than pass through, put out pieces of yarn and string which they might use in nest construction. Orioles take pride in their own pendulous, basketlike nests, which they lay about the ends of slender tree branches. The female selects the nest site and weaves the nest, but the male can help out with securing it in position. Generally, the female then lays four to five eggs. The pendulous shape of this nest retains eggs and baby birds comparatively protected from climbing predators. If you do not draw in nesters the very first year, keep striving. Occasionally several seasons are required to locate a next.

Plants for Orioles

Bullock’s orioles primarily inhabit cottonwoods, willows and oaks. If your landscape involves these trees, your chances of drawing these birds are most likely good. Apart palm trees, the hooded oriole is partial to this dogwood because of its tiny fruits. Planting nectar-producing, flowering shrubs and vines, such as honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum), bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis), hummingbird bush (Dicliptera sericea) and trumpet vine (Campsis radicans), also offers orioles a treat in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 10.

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