On Hummingbirds and Orioles

Part of the joy of gardening is the beauty of wildlife drawn to a well planned garden.  I love birds.  When I was a child, I kept a bird-watching journal and enjoyed identifying birds and their habitats.  A long time ago, I abandoned the written journal, but mentally, I have a record of birds in the yard and when their seasons are.

We’ve just begun the month of “Maybruary” as a friend put it.  It’s a very cold start to May.  Everything blooming is about two weeks behind a typical year.  For that reason, I ignore what the scenery looks like and pay close attention to the calendar and on April 20th, I put my feeders out for both hummingbirds and orioles.

I’m glad I did since many of my flowers that hummingbirds rely upon are weeks behind schedule.  The ruby-throated hummingbirds arrived last week and found their feeder right away.

The orioles arrived yesterday with their brilliant orange and black markings!  I’m so excited at seeing these two beauties.

I’ve found three keys to keeping hummingbirds and orioles in my yard:


  1. Put the feeders out early before the birds arrive.  When hummingbirds and orioles find available food, they’ll make your yard their home for feeding and maybe breeding.
  2. Do not use soap of any kind to clean their feeders.  Bleach and water mixed will disinfect the feeder without leaving a soap taste that birds hate.  I always rinse it very well but am reassured by knowing that any bleach traces left behind are not harmful to birds because of the way bleach chemically disappears in the sugar solution.
  3. While commercial nectar solutions exist, I find that the color of the feeders catches the attention well enough that birds are happy with fresh “nectar” solution made with one part sugar to four parts boiling water.  I boil the water to make the sugar easier to dissolve.  Then I let it cool before putting it in the disinfected feeders.

While I’m sad that the juncos (snowbirds) have left for the season and the cedar waxwings have been passing through, I know that the arrival of the migratory indigo buntings, scarlet tanagers, and rose breasted grosbeaks will be shortly.  The calendar says Yes, even if it seems we’re in Maybruary.  So I have seed ready for the birds that are seed eaters.  And I trust God to provide insects for the insect eaters.  And guess what?  As I’m writing, the first rose breasted grosbeak of the season just arrived at my feeder.  How wonderful!   I am privileged to play a small part of God’s plan for feeding the birds.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Matthew 6:26

Categories Chapel Worship/News, In the Garden | Tags: | Posted on May 4, 2011

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  1. by seminarygal

    On May 18, 2011

    I’ve received a question about how to keep orioles from dominating the hummingbird feeders. If domination becomes an issue, you might try two things: (1) planting flowers that hummingbirds love, and (2) a style of hummingbird feeder that orioles can’t access as well.

    I have a hummingbird feeder that is red, tall, has flower-shaped feed tubes with “bee-guards” leaving smaller openings than most orioles are content eating from, and I’ve placed it close to the house.

    Hummingbirds, being more agile in flight, don’t mind coming right up to the house. Orioles less so. They prefer their own feeder and a half orange farther out in the yard. This might be something to try if they’re monopolizing your hummingbird feeders..

  2. by seminarygal

    On May 24, 2011

    You learn something new every day 🙂
    I had no idea that Baltimore orioles posed such an aggression issue as to drive off hummingbirds. Given how many of you have responded to how to keep orioles from hummingbird feeders and wondered about flowers that hummingbirds like, here are a few favorite web sites that talk about attracting hummingbirds and butterflies. Enjoy!




  3. by Teri

    On June 15, 2011

    I love my little hummingbirds…it took me years to attract them with regularity and now they nest in the crab outside my kitchen window. Every time I see a little hummer at our feeders, it takes my breath away. Who could see a hummingbird and not believe in a divine creator? Only God could think of a creature such as a beautiful little miracle like a hummingbird?

    Hummingbirds seem to visit me most often when I need a little “love note” from the lord, just as double rainbows do…they both make me smile and appreciate the special ways God has of communicating with my heart through nature 🙂

    Love your site, Barbara…it is a treasure!

  4. by seminarygal

    On July 19, 2011

    Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined how popular this post would be. Personally, I find the topic’s popularity to be curious and fun and interesting all at the same time!

    I didn’t know that many people did not welcome orioles to their feeders because for those of us in the Midwest, orioles are just visitors…with a short vacation at that.

    Recently I have had quite a few inquiries about why orioles have left the feeders in people’s yards. As I’ve investigated that for myself, it appears that orioles come to my yard for nesting and breeding and then they return to Central and South America for the winter. Theirs is a shorter season in the Midwest than it is in other areas of the country. Additionally, it appears that older male orioles leave earlier than females and younger males. Since it’s the older males that are so brilliantly colored, we notice their absence more readily.

    There’s an interesting article on wintering locations at http://elibrary.unm.edu/sora/NABB/v010n01/p0012-p0017.pdf

    A few of you have asked about what flowers attract hummingbirds and shortly I will write a post on that one. Waiting for one of my favorites to bloom so I can include the photo.

  5. by Teri

    On October 31, 2011

    I’m sad to say all my hummers have gone south and I am taking in all of the feeders and garden art for the winter…what a lovely, colorful year we are having. The reds and greens and golds make me so happy God is such a wonderful artist….thanks for your wonderful site, Barbara…one of my blessings this year!

  6. by joachim olsen

    On May 8, 2018

    Have you ever taken the time to observe the Humming birds on the True day of rest, The Sabbath, or Saturday. Some who have done studies find that the feeders are obviously vacant on this day..

    HalleluYAH & Maranatha.


  7. by seminarygal

    On May 8, 2018

    This was very cute and made me smile. I have no idea how hummingbirds would know what day of the week it is, but obviously I need to be more observant whether Saturday or as many other Christians celebrate the Sabbath, on Sunday. Interestingly the devotionals I’ve been working on have to do with rest. Thank you for the little wink from God that it’s almost time to hit “post.” 🙂

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