If you enjoy watching colorful birds visit your backyard, you may be wondering if offering some strawberry jelly will attract beautiful Baltimore orioles. With their bright orange and black plumage, orioles add a splash of tropical flair to backyards in parts of North America.

The quick answer is yes, orioles do enjoy eating strawberry jelly. Offering jelly can be an easy way to draw these songbirds to your yard.

Oriole Diet and Feeding Behaviors

Fruits and Nectar

Orioles are omnivorous birds that feed on a variety of fruits and nectar. Their slender, pointed beaks allow them to puncture the skin of soft fruits like cherries, blueberries, raspberries, and mulberries to get at the sweet flesh and juice inside.

They also frequently seek out flower nectar high in sugar content from blossoms such as trumpet vines, honeysuckle, and columbines.

In spring and summer, fruit makes up the greatest portion of the oriole diet. Particularly fond of dark-skinned, sweet berries, these striking songbirds eat so many they are said to develop stained plumage and reddish hues around their face and bib as summer progresses.

Insects and Spiders

While fruit and nectar are a key element of their diet, orioles do not live on sugar alone. They also prey on insects like beetles, crickets, grasshoppers, and moths as an important source of protein. With watchful eyes and fast reactions, these birds can snatch insect meals right out of midair.

Feeding nestlings is demanding work for oriole parents, requiring a healthy supply of the fat- and protein-rich bugs favored by their growing young. Spiders and their eggs also supplement the birds’ need for these nutrients.

Sugar Water and Jelly

It’s no secret orioles are attracted to sweets. Many people put out nectar feeders or

or jelly treats specifically to draw these eye-catching songbirds to their yards. But does the appeal for these sugary bird feeder foods extend to strawberry jelly?

While jelly isn’t found in their natural environment, orioles will visit no-sugar-added strawberry preserves offered in small amounts. However, it may be less appealing or even avoided if it contains artificial colors and flavors.

Orioles seem to favor some offerings over others:

  • Orange slices and orange nectar attract them more so than jelly or other fruit nectars
  • Pure cane sugar nectar is preferred over artificial sweeteners
  • Clear or lightly colored, fruity drinks tend to appeal over thicker conserves or strongly colored punches

Regardless of the specific sweets put out, moderation is key. According to the National Audubon Society, limiting sugary treats for orioles and other birds will help prevent unhealthy weight gain or disposition issues.

So a little jelly here and there should be fine, but it’s better for their health not to overdo it.

Best Practices for Offering Jelly to Orioles

Jelly Type and Flavor

Orioles enjoy sweet fruit-flavored jellies such as grape, strawberry, cherry, and orange. These bright colors and sweet smells attract them to a feeding area. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, orioles tend to prefer softer jellies and nectars over harder suet.

You can offer standard grocery store jelly, but make sure to buy varieties that are 100% fruit juice with no artificial flavors or colors. Some brands even offer “bird friendly” jelly that is softer in texture. Avoid sugar-free jellies as birds enjoy the sweetness.

For a homemade option, there are nectar recipes tailored specifically for orioles.

Feeder Type and Placement

Orioles are accustomed to seeking out flowers and fruit high up in trees, so an elevated feeder placed 5-10 feet off the ground will help them notice it. Platform feeders surrounded by natural foliage and branches make good landing spots.

Special oriole jelly feeders have a little moat or cups that keeps the jelly from drying out or blowing away easily. Some have spikes to hold orange halves, which orioles will eat as well! Place your feeder where it has some protection from harsh sun and wind, preferably near trees, shrubs, or other resting spots in your yard.

Feeder Type Pros Cons
Platform feeder with mesh cups or bowls Lets rainwater drain through easily, adjustable placement Jelly can blow out of cups in high winds
Dish or cup style feeder with slots, holes, or indentations Holds jelly in place for longer periods Jelly dries out faster as more surface area is exposed
Orange half feeder with metal spikes Offers both jelly/nectar and fruit, rustic natural appearance Oranges tend to dry out quickly

Use a sturdy feeder made of durable materials like metal or thick plastic that won’t easily break or allow squirrels to chew through. Clean the feeder with a mild soap and water solution every few days, especially in hot weather when jelly can spoil more quickly.

Offer fresh jelly and cut orange halves frequently to keep attracting those colorful migrants!

Potential Drawbacks of Jelly Feeders

Risk of Spreading Disease

Bird feeders, if not properly cleaned, can unfortunately aid in spreading diseases between birds that congregate around them (Dacier, 2021). When birds with pathogens visit contaminated feeders and come into contact with leftover food, saliva, or feces, they can then carry disease to new locations when dispersing.

One study of Sialis birds in California found that using bleach solution weekly reduced infection rates of Mycoplasma bacteria at feeders by over 95% compared to untreated feeders.

A few common illnesses transmitted at feeders include:

  • Avian pox – Viral infection causing wart-like legions on skin and internal tissue
  • Trichomoniasis – Parasitic disease leading to throat blockage and starvation
  • Salmonella – Bacterial infection that spreads to humans via bird droppings

To mitigate risks, experts recommend disinfecting feeders with a 10% non-toxic bleach solution 1-2 times per month. Allowing feeders to fully dry in direct sunlight helps kill pathogens through UV exposure.

Proper bird feeder hygiene protects vulnerable baby birds and species like the ovenbird that prefer foraging on the ground below.

Increased Competition from Other Birds

Supplying a consistent, abundant food source through jelly feeders draws in high numbers of birds beyond just Baltimore orioles. Species like mockingbirds, catbirds, woodpeckers, jays, and even squirrels compete for the sweet, fruit-flavored jelly (Cornell Lab).

Species Food Consumed Per Day
Northern Cardinal Up to 40% of weight
Ruby-throated Hummingbird Equal to body weight

As evident by the table above, birds have a fast metabolism and require immense calories. Having multiple bird species vying over a single nectar feeder forces intense competition over the limited capacity.

The most aggressive birds like European starlings and brown-headed cowbirds chase away shyer species like warblers and vireos.

Using several small jelly feeders spread apart reduces monopolization so all birds get nourishment. Customizing setups with fruit favors like orange halves also caters to different dietary preferences between birds.

Ensuring peaceful coexistence maintains healthy biodiversity and allows us to enjoy the charming array of birds drawn to our yards.


With some thoughtful preparation, offering strawberry jelly can be a safe way to attract colorful orioles to your yard. Focus on hygiene, use jelly in moderation, and be vigilant about deterring other species from your feeder to reduce risks.

Listening for the flute-like songs of orioles and glimpsing their bright plumage will reward your efforts.

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