The Baltimore Oriole belongs to the genus Icterus, which contains roughly 30 other species of New World Orioles. Eight of these species are found in different parts of North America. Throughout the warm summer months, you’re likely to find these birds perched in trees in states east of the Rockies and even all the way up into Canada.
The oriole’s bright orange-and-black color makes it one of the most recognizable North American birds. But there’s a lot to learn about this beautiful bird beyond their colors and we’ve got the rundown here. Want to learn more about what Baltimore orioles eat and what their diet looks like based on the weather? We’ve got all that and more below!
What Do Baltimore Orioles Eat?
Baltimore orioles eat a diet that consists of fruit, nectar, and other foods. They are predominately omnivores. This is because they will also eat insects.
Unlike other birds, they do not eat seeds. So if you’re trying to attract to your yard, a traditional bird feeder won’t do the trick. They are actually quite picky eaters. Unlike many other insect-eating birds, Baltimore Orioles will consume spiny or hairy caterpillars, including pests such as autumn webworms, tent caterpillars, and gypsy moths.
Here is a rundown of what Baltimore orioles eat:
- Insects, including mealworms, caterpillars, beetles, grasshoppers, snails, spiders, and wasps
- Flowers and parts of flowers, such as flower buds
- Fruits, their favorites being apples, oranges, peaches, bananas, and berries
- Grape jelly
If you’re looking to attract Baltimore orioles, then do so with fruit. They have a huge sweet tooth and they love grape jelly and oranges. Grape jelly and fruit are high-energy items that will keep them going on their journey.
What Do Baltimore Orioles Eat in the Winter?
In winter, Baltimore orioles become scavengers and eat from feeders. As mentioned earlier, Baltimore orioles are migratory birds. That means that when the weather up north gets cold, they will begin to fly down south to where the weather is warmer. Staying up north during the winter would mean limiting their food options.
Many fruits are no longer available for them to eat as the trees have gone dormant. Insects are also harder to find in the harsh winter months. By migrating down south, the Baltimore oriole is able to scavenge for food without as many issues.
According to observations made in central Costa Rica, published in The Wilson Bulletin, Baltimore Orioles foraged for food on trees with brightly colored blossoms or in trees with dense foliage. During their stay in Costa Rica, Baltimore Orioles eat early in the morning and, to a lesser extent, late in the afternoon, according to this study. Baltimore Orioles frequently visit plants that are in bloom or bearing fruit.
While in Costa Rica, Lepidoptera larvae appear to be the most significant component in this bird’s diet. The second most significant component of the diet is beetles.
How Do Baltimore Orioles Gather their Food?
In the fall, when orioles are eating more fruits, they will fly into fruit trees and shrubs such as serviceberry, mulberry, blackberry, raspberry, and wild cherry trees and bushes. They will use their beaks to pick the fruit and eat them.
In the summer, when they are eating more insects, these crafty birds will be seen perched on tree limbs or flying among the higher foliage in search of insects.
Many Baltimore orioles will also stop by bird feeders that are filled with foods that they enjoy. This is another great way in which they are able to eat in the wild without competing as much with other natural competitors. If you’re looking to attract Baltimore orioles be sure to put the appropriate types of food for each season.
As a result, it is ideal to give orioles high sugar meals like nectar, jelly, and ripe fruits during the spring, late summer, and early fall. They frequently require energy for migration. Insects are the best summer food option for orioles. They require protein to reproduce and take care of their offspring during the summertime. You may choose to leave out either dried mealworms or live mealworms.
What Animals Hunt Baltimore Orioles?
Orioles are preyed upon by a range of predatory animals, varying from bigger birds such as crows and screech owls to mammals such as squirrels and household cats. Their predators usually prey on their eggs or their nestlings. Orioles have different warning sounds that they use to warn each other about predators, and they will crowd and harass predators who approach them.
How Does Their Diet Impact Other Species
Baltimore orioles play an important role in our ecosystem. Baltimore orioles are essential bug predators in the communities where they inhabit. They are especially essential in preserving forest trees since they reside in wooded environments and hunt on caterpillars during the life stage at which many insects inflict the most harm to plants. Many gardeners love to attract Baltimore orioles as well as they will often eat forest tent caterpillars that do a lot of damage to plants. They are great at controlling all of these pest populations and that’s what makes them so vital to the ecosystem.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Agami Photo Agency/Shutterstock.com
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