3 Things Orioles Like To Eat Most (Diet & Facts)

Their sweet whistling songs echoing from treetops are always pleasant to the ears. Apart from their melodious songs, they are also a sight to bear. Orioles are famous for their colorful feathers, but few people know what they eat.

Here your answer to the question, ‘what do orioles eat?’ is addressed.

Orioles Habits And Biology

There are two types of orioles, the Old World Orioles and the New World Orioles. They are primarily known for their characteristic yellow-black or orange-black color.

Old World Orioles and New World Orioles are not related to each other. They have the same name as they possess similar factors such as their diet, behavior, size, and contrasting plumage. The term plumage refers to the layers of feathers that cover the bird and the feathers’ arrangement, pattern, and color.

Males are larger, and their plumage is brightly colored than that of females and immature birds, which are slightly smaller in size with duller plumage than their male counterparts.

Orioles possess beaks that are small, curved, hooked, and often as long as the bird’s head. New World Orioles tend to be slender with long tails and pointed beaks than the Old World orioles.

These birds are found across Africa, Asia, America, Europe, and Australia. Those that occupy cold regions are migratory, and only a few species located in warmer areas migrate.

Most species such as the Baltimore Orioles are solitary and associate with their mate only during mating seasons. When pursuing females, males display by dancing around them, bending forwards, and spreading their wings to reveal their orange backs.

Female orioles respond by fanning their tails, lowering, and fluttering their wings. In addition, they make a chattering call. The females choose the net site within the territory defended by males.

Unlike most birds that defend large feeding territories, orioles mainly protect the areas around their nests. Therefore, you’re more likely to spot neighboring orioles feeding close to each other.

The few orioles that are loyal to their partners breed in territorial pairs. Typically, they lay two to three eggs, but some can lay up to seven eggs.

What Do Orioles Eat In The Wild?

What Do Orioles Eat In The Wild

Both the new world and old world orioles are omnivores, and they primarily feed on insects, plants, and nectar. Arboreals is another term used to classify these colorful birds. That is, they live on trees and feed on canopy (plant crops that grow above ground).

Orioles are acrobatic feeders that search high branches of trees in search of fruits, flowers, and insects. They scale across twigs, hanging upside down and fluttering to enhance their reach.

From time to time, they fly out from their nests to catch insects out of the air. The Baltimore Orioles have adapted unique ways of using their beaks. With their beaks closed, they penetrate soft fruits then open their mouths to cut a juicy portion from which they feed.

Food preference varies depending on the species of orioles. As previously mentioned, these birds primarily feed on insects, nectar, and plants. Below are some species of orioles and what they like to eat:

  • Black-naped Oriole (Oriolus Chinensis) –feeds on dragonflies, moths, and fruits such as bananas.
  • The Jamaican Oriole (Icterus leucopteryx) –generally feeds on insects and various fruits as they are not very picky.
  • Bullock’s Oriole (Icterus bullockii) –feeds on larvae, butterflies, weevils, mollusks (snails and slugs), hummingbirds, small lizards, beetles, figs, blackberries, cherries, and figs.
  • Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus) –feeds on small mammals, nectar, small lizards, nestling birds (baby birds/chicks), eggs, seeds, and pollen.
  • Black-headed Oriole (Icterus larvatus) –feeds on nectar, seeds, fruits, caterpillars, dragonflies, domestic honey bees, and termites.
  • Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula) –feeds on snails, spiders, grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars, and fruits.

In fall and winter, Bullock’s and Baltimore Orioles will feed on nectar from various flowering trees.

The preferred prey for most orioles is moths at their larvae stage (offspring). When they get hold of the moths, their protective hairs are scrapped off by beating them against a branch before eating them.

Orioles feed on insects and other small animals to acquire protein that is crucial for their growth. From nectar and pollen, they gain sugars. The sugar is then converted to fats that they utilize during cold seasons for migration.

In warmer seasons, while breeding and feeding their young, a lot of their diet at this time consists of insects. In colder seasons, the better part of their diets consists of nectar and ripe fruits.

Sometimes orioles damage fruit crops such as cherries, raspberries, bananas, and oranges. It is due to this reason that fruit growers consider these birds as pests.

These colorful birds eat as often as they can to address their needs. Aside from food availability, their age also determines the amount of food they consume. Younger orioles tend to eat more to sustain growth in comparison to mature birds.

The better part of younger orioles’ diets consists of about 40% insects and 30% fruits and nectar. However, it varies from species to species, such as the Baltimore oriole that feeds 50% on plants and 50% on insects.

Facts About Orioles

Aside from their beauty, eating habits, and behavior, here are some interesting facts about orioles to take note of:

  1. Orioles are members of the Icteridae family, which means that their closest bird relatives are blackbirds, grackles, bobolinks, and meadowlarks.
  2. Orioles are sensitive to the spraying of pesticides as the birds die from ingesting the poison. Also, pesticide use results in food scarcity which can kill the orioles as their food sources diminish.
  3. The Scott’s Oriole that inhabits the Southwestern parts of the United States of America weaves its nests from yucca plant leaves.
  4. Orioles get their name from the Latin word aureoles, meaning golden.
  5. Orchard orioles may nest close to each other in areas containing high-quality habitats. Several orioles can occupy one tree.
  6. The Baltimore oriole commonly occupies suburban areas due to its liking for open settings surrounded by mature trees.
  7. Unlike other birds, Baltimore orioles will consume spiny and hairy caterpillars like webworms, gypsy moths, and tent caterpillars.
  8. When grasshoppers are abundant in supply, one Bullock’s Oriole can eat up to forty-five of them in one day. What a feat!
  9. Baltimore Orioles are the state birds of Maryland in the United States.
  10. Male Baltimore Orioles’ songs vary from individual to individual. Females are capable of identifying their males by their unique sounds.
  11. Orioles construct hanging nests using plant fibers and grasses, tree bark, vine, and the string of yarn placed on small twigs of a branch. Their nests hang from six to forty-five feet above ground to protect them from predators.
  12. Baltimore and Bullock’s Orioles play an essential role in pollinating numerous tree species as they transfer pollen from one tree to another while feeding on nectar from their flowers.
  13. Female Baltimore Orioles build their nest with little or no help from their male counterparts.
  14. It takes twelve days for orioles to weave their nests. At one time, a Baltimore Oriole was spotted spending forty hours building a complicated nest, tying all the knots only with its beak.
  15. Male Bullock’s Orioles may assist the female in weaving and collecting their nest material. However, only the female incubates and feeds their young.
  16. Today most Oriole nests are mainly made from plant fibers. During the 1800s, orioles made their nests entirely of horsehair.
  17. In April and June, Oriole will lay four to five eggs. Their offspring are capable of leaving their nests after thirty days.
  18. Most Bullock’s Orioles stay in Central and Southern Mexico during winter, with some choosing to remain along the coasts of Southern California.
  19. In summer, Orioles are found in North America. Other species spend their winters in Mexico.
  20. Many Baltimore Orioles spend the winter seasons in Central America, Southern Mexico, while some choose to remain in the southern states of America. Some migrate as far as New England.
  21. Both Baltimore and Bullock Orioles start their migration in June but most migrate in August.
  22. Bullock’s and Baltimore Orioles migrate at night and are common victims of crashing into towers and buildings.
  23. Bullock’s Orioles were named in tribute to William Bullock and his son, William, for their study of birds in the early 1800s in Mexico City.
  24. The spot-breasted oriole has unique plumage compared to other species. Both the male and females have the same bright color.
  25. Orchard Orioles, unlike other oriole species, are not territorial and are friendly towards other birds. They can be seen nesting next to other birds like robins, sparrows, and kingbirds. Their friendships come in handy as they can warn each other if a predator tries to attack them. They also group to chase predators.
  26. Both New World Orioles and the Old World Orioles molt (shed their feathers) yearly.
  27. Despite their love for insects and plant matter, orioles also have sweet tooths (beaks!). If you want to attract some to your backyard or garden, leave out ripe orange fruit, grape jelly, even a hummingbird feeder will attract these brilliant birds.


Want to attract some orioles to your backyard? You know how to go about it, thanks to this article. Orioles are magnificent birds that belong in the wild, where they can serenade us in times of summer and spring.

Now that you have the answer to the question, ‘what do orioles eat?’ you can spread the knowledge.

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