What Do Orioles Eat? 16+ Foods Orioles Prefer to Eat

Baltimore oriole
© Agami Photo Agency/Shutterstock.com

Written by Kyle Glatz

Updated: February 5, 2022

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Orioles are songbirds that live in most places the world. They are migratory, compact birds whose colorful plumage often blends in with the leaves on trees and underbrush. In fact, they are so small that they are often confused for thrush and smaller woodpeckers. As such small birds, orioles are not capable of swooping down to collect prey. So, what do they eat?

We can show you what orioles eat as adult birds, how they feed their babies, and how you can attract them to your gardens.

What Foods Do Orioles Eat?

Birds with yellow chests: Audubon's Oriole

Orioles are omnivores that prefer insects and fruit to seeds.


Orioles eat insects and fruit. These omnivores have a wide variety of foods from which they can pick throughout the year. Although the oriole’s extended family lives around the world, they subsist on many of the same types of food no matter where they are located.

Some of the most common foods that orioles eat include:

Orioles prefer to stick with various insects, arachnids, and fruit. Unlike other songbirds, they avoid eating seeds whenever possible, at least ones that have to be cracked.

The last entry on this list is of particular interest in that case because orioles have been spotted consuming seed material in feeders during winter. When food is scarce, they will look for seeds that have been cracked by other birds and eat the remains.

Aside from that, orioles are attracted to insects for their high protein levels and the sweetness of various fruits. They prefer to feast on the darker, sweeter fruits.

What Do Baby Orioles Eat?

Yellow Animal – Eurasian golden oriole

Baby orioles eat regurgitated insects and fruit for the first weeks of their lives


Young orioles tend to eat a variety of foods that are brought to them by their parents. As such small birds, they are frequent targets for predators. The male parent will often hunt while the female broods. The birds will feed on the material that the male has gathered and then regurgitate the food for the baby orioles.

The diet of the adult orioles does not change during this time as the fledging period only lasts about two weeks. Thus, baby orioles will eat various insects and fruits that their parents bring them in the nest. Shortly after, the orioles become capable of looking for their own foods, eating nutritious insects and fruits as they find them.

What Do Orioles Eat in Winter?

oriole eating jelly and oranges

Orioles gain access to more fruits when they migrate.

©J. Omar Hansen/Shutterstock.com

The wintertime can be difficult for orioles since their favorite foods begin to dwindle in availability. Fewer insects are available to orioles and fruits become scarce in colder climates. The lack of available food and harsh weather is not suitable for orioles, so the vast majority of them migrate to warmer locations for the winter months.

When they arrive at their new locations, orioles will often expand their diet to accommodate new foods that are not available in the places where they spend spring and summer. For example, orioles in the United States will eat more citrus fruits when they migrate. Here are some other foods that orioles eat during the winter months:

  • Oranges
  • Apples
  • Peaches
  • Bananas
  • Berries
  • Grapes
  • Nectar
  • Suet

Not every oriole migrates very far if their natural range is on the edge of a warm area, like the Southeastern United States. If they choose to winter in a place where they will be comfortable enough, orioles can often be spotted at bird feeders picking at suet or eating seed remnants. Although fewer insects will be available, orioles will find enough to fill their diet.  

What Predators Eat Orioles?

cat waiting to pounce on prey

Cats often capture and eat orioles.


Orioles are very small birds that do not have many defensive capabilities. They can fly away from any predators that they spot on the ground, but they are neither fast enough nor agile enough to avoid airborne predators.

As a result, orioles tend to fall victim to these creatures:

As with most creatures, young orioles are more often prey than adults, especially if they fall from their nests. In some cases, larger birds can simply attack and kill an oriole before the bird can react. Although owls and crows are serious threats to orioles, the most common killer of orioles are domestic cats, which will use their stalking, pouncing, speed, and climbing abilities to catch the birds.

What to Feed Orioles in Your Yard

Chickadee feasting on suet at a bird feeder.

Oriole will eat the sweet parts of suet, but they prefer fruit.

©Wade Lamb/Shutterstock.com

Many people appreciate the presence of the orioles in their yards and gardens. These birds have a lovely song and come with the benefit of eating insects and arachnids that humans do not want around. People that wish to attract orioles to their yard without others need to remember their special diet.

Orioles prefer fruit to seeds, so a regular bird feeder will not do much to attract these birds. Instead, a better plan is to put out some of the following foods:

  • Cut grapes
  • Peeled, cut oranges
  • Nectar
  • Jelly
  • Mealworms
  • Cherries
  • Mulberries
  • Suet

If you place these foods in your yard and use the right feeders, you will easily attract these pleasant birds to your area. Often, it is best to look up their migratory patterns for your area and put out the foods a week or two in advance of their arrival.

Orioles prefer to eat insects and dark, juicy fruits. In winter, they might nibble on seeds that have been cracked and left open for them, but they usually migrate far enough that finding food is not difficult for them. The birds have several natural predators, and their small size does not make it easy for them to fight back against others.

Although New World orioles possess a similar name, size, and food preferences as Old World orioles, they are not from the same family. New World orioles come from the Icterus genus while Old World orioles belong to Oriolidae. Their primary difference is their coloring, with New World orioles having orange and black or greenish-yellow plumage in contrast to the various bright colors of the Old World orioles.

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About the Author

Kyle Glatz is a writer at A-Z-Animals where his primary focus is on geography and mammals. Kyle has been writing for researching and writing about animals and numerous other topics for 10 years, and he holds a Bachelor's Degree in English and Education from Rowan University. A resident of New Jersey, Kyle enjoys reading, writing, and playing video games.

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