Bird of the week – Orioles

This week’s bird of the week is actually about two bird species; the Yellow Oriole (Icterus nigrogularis)
and the Venezuelan Troupial (Icterus icterus). Both are from the same genus (Icterus) within the group of so-called ‘New World Orioles’.

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The Yellow Oriole

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The Venezuelan Troupial

I grew up on a Caribbean island where both species are present and I found it interesting to observe them. There are obvious differences between them such as color (black/yellow vs. black/orange), size (the Venezuelan troupial being bigger) and song. To me, it also seemed as if the Venezuelan Troupial was easier to spot, but that might be due to location and not necessarily to a difference in tameness. Other differences are more behavioral.

One example of this is nest making. Yellow orioles create their own nests, which resemble hanging baskets. They do this by ‘weaving’, a behaviour that is considered complex for a bird. This requires an eye for detail, flexible head, the ability to draw a strand of leaf repeatedly through the other nest materials etc. A scientific study was devoted to examining how these birds weave their nest and which techniques they use.

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Weaving techniques

On the other side of the nest making spectrum is the Venezuelan troupial, which does not make its own nest, but rather takes other nests – vacant or occupied. It then adjusts the nest as needed, perhaps by making a softer ground or a bigger entrance.

In my opinion it’s amazing to see how much these two species differ, although they are classified under the same genus.

If you would like to read more:

http://www.avianweb.com/southamericanyelloworioles.html
http://www.avianweb.com/troupials.html
http://ibc.lynxeds.com/species/yellow-oriole-icterus-nigrogularis
http://ibc.lynxeds.com/species/venezuelan-troupial-icterus-icterus
http://sta.uwi.edu/fst/lifesciences/documents/Icterus_icterus.pdf

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