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About Migrating Orioles

About Migrating Orioles

By Duncraft
Photographs courtesy of Duncraft

Even though there are eight species of orioles, only two are common in North America. The Baltimore oriole and orchard oriole both breed throughout the eastern U.S. and into Canada.

When do orioles migrate?

Orioles are considered a neotropical species, meaning they spend the majority of the year in southern climates like South America and only venture north for a few months during their breeding season. The oriole breeding season coincides with the warm summer months in the north.

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Many orioles migrate over 1,000 miles to their breeding grounds and when they arrive, they need energy…fast! That’s why the natural sugars found in grape jelly and oranges are so desirable. They’re the perfect snack to provide these fruit-loving birds with the energy they need to forage for insects and feed their young.

If you see orioles in your area before the insects appear, and insects are an essential part of the oriole’s diet, then you can supplement your offerings to include insect-flavored suet cakes. Your orioles will eat the suet and get the protein they need to keep going during the busiest of seasons.

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When will orioles arrive in the spring?

Orioles start arriving as early as April to late May in backyards stretching from Louisiana to as far north as Canada. If you live in or around these states, then it’s a good idea to place your oriole feeder out earlier rather than later. They raise one or two broods and then head south before the weather turns cold.

If you live in New England, place your oriole or fruit feeders out by the middle of May or early June. The earlier you place your feeders out, the more likely you are to attract orioles to your yard.

How long should I provide orioles with oranges and jelly?

When you haven’t seen orioles at your feeder for a couple of weeks, it’s okay to clean your feeder and bring it indoors for the season. However, if your feeder is made from durable recycled plastic then you’re welcome to use it to attract birds year-round. Simply skewer apple halves or fill the dishes with dried mealworms, waxworms and more to feed bluebirds, catbirds, and others.

How will I know when orioles have migrated?

Once you no longer see orioles in your area or hear them singing, then it’s likely the orioles have already migrated and will return north again next year.

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How can I help orioles prepare for fall migration?

To help your migrating orioles, offer oranges and grape jelly, preferably jelly without any high fructose corn syrup. These naturally sweet treats sustain the energy of the fruit-loving orioles we know and love.

Do orioles molt?

Right before orioles migrate south to spend the winter months in a warm tropical climate, they molt. Molting is a process where birds grow new feathers to replace the ones that have worn out from wear, weather, and breeding. With new feathers “on the wing,” birds can easily fly away to escape from predators, plus they can fly with the least resistance while conserving their energy for the long flight back south.


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