When to Stop Feeding Orioles Grape Jelly (Read These Tips First)

Did you know that there’s a right time to feed orioles grape jelly—and a critical time to stop?

It’s well-known that offering this sweet treat can attract orioles to your backyard, but there are also potential problems associated with it that you should know.

The best way to navigate these issues is timing, and we’re going to explain when to stop feeding orioles jelly, why it’s important, and what to feed them throughout the year to keep them coming back.

Key Takeaways

  • Orioles are attracted to grape jelly due to its high sugar content.
  • You should stop feeding orioles grape jelly in late spring and summer.
  • Seasonal changes and the birds’ natural eating habits should inform your feeding practices.

Should I Stop Feeding Jelly to Orioles? Why?

Yes, you should stop feeding orioles jelly—all year-round, that is. So if you’ve been leaving grape jelly out for these birds in every season, this is for you.


One of the key reasons that you should stop giving jelly to orioles year-round is that it doesn’t quite satisfy their nutritional needs. Not in the way that whole fruit does.

Technically, it’s best to give them something like halved oranges, small berries, and peach slices.

Jelly is more of a treat—like dessert for the birds. And like dessert, it shouldn’t be seen as the main meal, or a significant portion of their diets.

Not to mention, during the oriole’s breeding season, insects are its main form of grub. This is important for their survival as well as for their young, as oriole parents feed these protein-rich insects to them.

So that’s one good reason not to feed jelly to orioles during their breeding season, which is roughly April through July.

If you do, they might be tempted to eat the jelly rather than fill up on the insects they and their babies need.

Read Next: How to Attract Baltimore Orioles

Hummingbird Endangerment

Hummingbirds are notorious lovers of sweet nectar. As sweets-eaters, they may come to check out a dish of grape jelly left out for orioles.

You might think that this is a good thing, but it’s not.

The reason is that hummingbirds have been documented getting covered in the sticky stuff, unable to clean themselves off. This is a significant problem for these tiny fliers that sometimes results in their death.

Not just hummingbirds, but also other smaller bird species may have a similar issue with the jelly.

So, if you love birds, consider not leaving grape jelly out for the orioles all year long, for the sake of the other bird species.

When to Stop Feeding Orioles Grape Jelly

You should stop filling oriole bird feeders with grape jelly when you see hummingbirds arriving in your backyard. Hold off on the grape jelly until they’ve left for the season.

This may vary depending on where you live, but generally, you would stop putting out grape jelly for orioles in late spring through early-to-mid summer. 

We would suggest removing the jelly feeders completely if you want to be really cautious. This is for a couple of reasons.

One, orioles won’t stop themselves from gobbling up the sugary stuff. So you might need to be the one who controls it for them.

And two, this is the safest option for hummingbirds, as there will be no risk of getting their feathers drenched in the substance.

Precautions to Take When Feeding Orioles Jelly

If you really want to give them jelly in the summer, you can look for jelly feeder options on the market that may carry less risk.

But note that you should never leave out dishes of jelly, and it’s smart to put the jelly feeder close to a window where you’ll be able to monitor it, in case you need to save a hummingbird that has strayed into the jelly.

In terms of the grape jelly brand or recipe, make sure to go with one that has no artificial sweeteners or chemical additives. Artificial sweeteners are not healthy for birds and could potentially harm them.

Do Orioles Eat Jelly All Summer?

They would if you gave it to them.

But as we’ve explored above, this is not necessarily the best option for them nutritionally, nor is it particularly safe for other bird species.

When and How to Feed Orioles Grape Jelly

It’s best to feed orioles grape jelly in the early spring, around March to April when they’re returning to their breeding grounds, and then again once fall begins, through the winter season.

These times coincide with the natural shift in the orioles’ diets towards more nectar and fruit.

In essence, the periods most suitable for feeding grape jelly to orioles are from March to April and again from late August to September (and even into winter for the orioles that might, for one reason or another, start their migration a little later).

To start, make sure you have a clean, special feeder for the orioles. Consider also having some other fruits in addition to the jelly, like apples, oranges, peaches, berries, and bananas.

Hang the feeder in a visible spot in your backyard, ideally away from heavily-trafficked areas to make the birds feel comfortable.

Be mindful of the consistency of the jelly when filling the feeder, too. If it’s too thick, you can mix in a little water to make it easier for the birds to consume.

It’s crucial to keep the feeding area clean and free of pests. Make sure to clean the feeder regularly, and refill as needed.

What Do You Feed Orioles in August?

Mealworms, fruit, and nectar. And perhaps starting in late August, you can start feeding them grape jelly.

After their breeding season (which is when orioles are mainly insectivorious), they start eating more fruits and sweet foods. So this is a good time to leave fruits like halved oranges, berries, and apples out for them.

Mealworms, particularly live ones, are also good to leave out for them to provide much-needed protein for their upcoming migration.

You can also try suet, especially if it has mealworms in it, as this may also attract them and give them a good dose of fuel to burn.

Why Orioles Love Grape Jelly

Orioles are attracted to grape jelly mainly because of its sweetness. The sugar content in grape jelly provides the birds with a quick source of energy, making it an enticing treat for them.

Grape jelly is rich in carbohydrates, which are important for supplying the birds with the energy they need to sustain their daily activities and migrations.

Beyond this, grape jelly is also a good source of vitamin C. This nutrient is important for the overall health of orioles, as it helps support their immune system and maintain healthy body tissues.

As orioles are fruit-loving birds, the taste and aroma of grape jelly are appealing to them.

Offering grape jelly can increase your chances of attracting orioles to your backyard, as they are drawn to the sweet flavors and can’t resist the fruity goodness.

Migration and Seasonal Considerations

When it comes to feeding orioles grape jelly, it’s essential to consider their migration patterns and seasonal behavior.

Orioles are migratory birds found across North America. These beautiful birds usually start their migration in late summer, which makes it the ideal time to stop feeding them grape jelly.

During their long spring migration, orioles crave sweet sugary foods like fruit and grape jelly. These high-energy treats provide the boost they need to keep going.

So, the best time to offer grape jelly to orioles is between March and April when they are returning to their breeding grounds.

As the nesting season begins, orioles’ dietary needs change. They switch to a high-protein diet, primarily insects, to feed their growing young.

Therefore, it becomes less crucial to provide grape jelly during this time since they will be actively seeking other food sources.

As the winter migration approaches, orioles begin to travel south, usually starting around August to September. During these months, you can resume offering grape jelly to help sustain the energy they need for their long journey.

Alternatives to Grape Jelly for Orioles

Offering a variety of food options to orioles can help attract them and provide proper nutrition. While grape jelly is a popular choice, there are several other alternatives that can be more nutritious and similarly enjoyed by these colorful songbirds.

  • One common alternative is to provide fresh fruit. Orioles are known to enjoy a wide array of fruits, such as oranges, apples, peaches, berries, and bananas. To offer fruits, simply slice them into small pieces and place them on a plate or fruit feeder. This option is a great source of vitamins and minerals. Remember to remove any uneaten fruit to prevent mold growth.
  • Another option is to incorporate protein sources in their diet. Insects, such as mealworms, caterpillars, and crickets, are a natural food source for orioles and can help support the feeding of baby orioles. This protein-rich diet helps them during periods when carbohydrates aren’t as necessary.
  • Nectar is also an excellent choice for attracting orioles. You can either purchase specialized oriole nectar or prepare a homemade mix by dissolving sugar in water. For safety reasons, avoid using red dyes and food coloring in your homemade nectar recipe.
  • Peanut butter is another alternative to grape jelly for orioles. Mixing peanut butter with birdseed or oats creates a tasty treat that provides essential nutrients. To avoid choking hazards, it is best to offer creamy peanut butter as opposed to chunky. You can spread this mixture on tree branches or offer it in a small dish.
  • As an occasional treat, you can provide suet mixed with fruit, berries, or peanut butter. Suet offers a high-energy food source, which can be especially beneficial during colder months. Be mindful that suet can spoil in hot weather, so use it sparingly during warmer times.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should you change the grape jelly for orioles?

It’s important to regularly replace the jelly you provide for orioles to ensure freshness and prevent spoiling.

A good rule of thumb is to check the jelly every 1-3 days and replace it if it appears cloudy, discolored, or covered in insects.

Is grape jelly bad for hummingbirds?

Yes, grape jelly is bad for hummingbirds. The main reason is that they can get stuck in it.

As it coats their feathers, it’s challenging to impossible to get the sticky substance off, and they can die because of it.

What month do you stop feeding orioles?

You don’t need to stop feeding orioles in any particular season. You just change up what you’re offering them.

In early spring, offer fruits, jelly, mealworms, and suet. In late spring and early-to-mid summer, stop feeding orioles jelly and stick with mealworms, suet, and cut up fruit if you want to offer a tasty treat.

Then, in late August to early September and through the fall, you can resume offering jelly as well as mealworms, fruits, nectar, and suet.

Best grape jelly for orioles

The best grape jelly for orioles is straight fruit ingredients without high-fructose corn syrup, chemical preservatives, or dyes.

As natural as you can go is best for the birds.

Are there alternatives to grape jelly for orioles?

Yes, there are several alternatives to grape jelly that orioles enjoy.

Some of their favorite fruits include orange halves (which they’ll happily peck at), berries, peaches, apples, and even bananas.

You can also provide oriole nectar and food specifically designed for these birds.

What precautions to take while feeding orioles?

When feeding orioles, it’s essential to keep safety in mind. Always provide clean feeders to prevent the spread of disease, and be mindful of the location.

Keep feeders at a safe distance from windows and other hazards to reduce the risk of collisions. Additionally, ensure the jelly does not spoil, as spoiled food can harm the birds.

Be prepared to stop feeding the birds if you notice an influx of other wildlife, such as raccoons or squirrels, to the feeding area.

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