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How to Attract Hummingbirds & Orioles

May 20, 2022



Flowers, feeders, perches, insects, and water are the key ingredients to a healthy yard that will attract these amazing jewels. Since hummingbirds and orioles naturally frequent openings in the forest and forest edges, they are readily drawn to suburban and rural gardens that offer a mix of tall trees, shrubs, meadows, and lawns. During migration, they frequent parks and urban yards planted with bright flowers.

Hummingbird Feeder

Hummingbird & Oriole Feeders

They are on the way! Some of the favorite birds that visit our feeding stations are beginning their annual spring migration northward.

Hummingbird and oriole feeders are both considered nectar feeders because they simulate flower nectar that these birds like to eat. In general, hummingbird feeders are red and have smaller holes and perches. Oriole feeders are orange with larger perches. Both can be filled with the same type of nectar.

Orioles and hummingbirds are migratory birds, so nectar feeders only need to be used during the spring, summer, and fall. Some southern and western states may have hummingbirds year-round. Place your nectar feeders out in March or April (earlier in the south, later in the north). Keep them out until about two weeks after you last see birds feeding at them.

Don’t forget to clean your feeders regularly.

Simply empty the feeder, take it apart, and then let each part soak in a bowl of soapy water for one to two hours. Scrub the feeder parts gently and then rinse with warm water.

After washing, make sure that your feeder dries completely before putting it back together and filling it.

Meadow View Growers offers a wide variety of birdhouses, feeders, and bird food: Purchase online for curbside pickup.

Go Vertically

Grow a cascade of nectar-rich plants by securing a trellis to your house and planting trumpet honeysuckle. Trees and garden sheds can also support sturdy trellises for trumpet vine. Layer herbaceous or lower-growing plants in front of vines. Then add window boxes, tubs, or ceramic pots, coral honeysuckle, cardinal flowers, or bee balm.

Pussy Willow

Provide Soft Plants

Hummingbirds usually line their nests with soft plant fibers, so grow cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), which has fuzzy stems, and pussy willow (Salix discolor), which has fuzzy flowers. If your yard contains thistle (Cirsium spp.) and dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), allow some to remain— their fluffy seeds provide nesting material.

Seasonal Blooms

Seasonal blooms provide nectar throughout the growing season. This is especially important in early spring when migrants first return, exhausted from their long travels.

Spring Flowers:

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis), red, sun/part shade, height 4′ – 6′

Columbine species (Aquilegia spp.), varies, sun/part. shade, height 2′ – 3′

Coral Bells (Heuchera species), red, part sun/shade, height  2′

Fire Pink (Silene virginia), red, sun to partial shade, height 1 – 2 feet

Fringed Bleeding Heart (Dicentra eximia),  pink, shade to sun, height 12”

Indian Pink (Spigela marilandica), red, part sun/light shade, height 2″- 18″

Lupine (Lupinus spp.), varies, sun, and height varies

Penstemon digitalis (Foxglove Beardstongue, Tall White Beardstongue), white, sun to partial shade, height 24-48 inches tall)

Solomon Seal (Polygonatum biflorum), white, shade to partial sun, height 1 – 3 feet

Scarlet Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) and any of the many Salvia species which are indigenous across North America

Fall Flowers:

Trumpet Honeysuckle, Penstemon, Spotted Jewelweed, Cleome, Zinnias, Salvia, Monarda, Cuphea, Pineapple Sage, and Scarlet Runner Bean. 

Bee Balm Hummingbird
Water for Hummingbirds

Provide a water feature

Like most birds, hummingbirds frequently bathe in shallow water and may preen or flit through the droplets generated by garden misters, drip systems, and small pump-fed waterfalls. Orioles also prefer shallow water— no more than two inches deep.

Native Plants

Native plants are the best offering as they produce more nectar than other plants and they also attract the insects that hummingbirds will eat, with insects being the other major part of their diet. 

Suggested native flowers for continual nectar in our area:

  • Aquilegia canadensis (Columbine) blooming in April and May,
  • Phlox divaricate (woodland phlox) blooming in May and June,
  • Geranium maculatum (wild geranium) blooming May through June,
  • Penstemon digitalis (foxglove beardtongue) blooming in June & July,
  • Liatris Spicata (blazing star) blooming July through September
  • Monarda didyma (bee balm) blooming July through August
  • Lobelia cardinalis (cardinal flower) blooming July through September
Oriole with an orange


The best food to offer to attract orioles initially is sliced oranges, but the absolute favorite food of orioles is grape jelly. Orioles are attracted to the color orange, and to the fruit of oranges, at least initially. Their interest in oranges wanes after an initial week or so, but they can’t get enough grape jelly throughout the spring and summer seasons. The easiest way to provide grape jelly is to buy it in convenient squeeze bottles that make it easy to squeeze the jelly into a small bowl, or whatever space a feeder might provide. Oranges are usually offered cut in halves, and it’s best to “nail” them into position. Better yet, there are special oriole feeders that lack nectar vessels but have a small bowl (for jelly) and a couple of spikes (for orange halves) that serve orioles very well.

Check out Birding Wire for more great tips.

Don't Forget The Bugs

Both hummingbirds and orioles get their protein by eating small insects, caterpillars, and spiders, so they will help to keep bugs in check around your home, along with a variety of songbirds and flycatchers.

black naped oriole
Hummingbird & flower

Say No To Pesticides.

Nectar eaters also benefit from eating protein-rich insects. Birds can ingest poisons when they eat contaminated insects, and systemic herbicides can make their way into flower nectar. Let birds be your natural insect control.


Learn more from Audubon at Guide to Attracting Hummingbirds and Orioles.