Icteridae – Oropendolas, Orioles, Blackbirds & Allies
Not enough birds have been the subject of poets pens but the Common Grackle has:
by Ogden Nash
The grackle’s voice is less than mellow,
His heart is black, his eye is yellow,
He bullies more attractive birds
With hoodlum deeds and vulgar words,
And should a human interfere,
Attacks that human in the rear.
I cannot help but deem the grackle
An ornithological debacle.
Icterids make up a family (Icteridae) of small- to medium-sized, often colorful, New-World passerine birds. Most species have black as a predominant plumage color, often enlivened by yellow, orange or red. The family is widely varied in size, shape, behavior and coloration. The name, meaning ‘jaundiced ones’ (from the prominent yellow feathers of many species) comes from the Ancient Greek ikteros via the Latin ictericus. This group includes the New World blackbirds, New World orioles, the bobolink, meadowlarks, grackles, cowbirds, oropendolas and caciques.
Despite the similar names, the first groups are only distantly related to the Old World common blackbird (a thrush) or the Old World orioles.
The majority of icterid species live in the tropics, although there are a number of temperate forms, such as American blackbirds and the long-tailed meadowlark. The highest densities of breeding species are found in Colombia and in southern Mexico. They inhabit a range of habitats, including scrub, swamp, forest, and savanna. Temperate species are migratory, with many species that nest in the United States and Canada moving south into Mexico and Central America.
Icterids are variable in size, and often display considerable sexual dimorphism, with brighter coloration and greater size in males being typical. While such dimorphism is widely known in passerines, the sexual dimorphism by size is uniquely extreme in icterids. For example, the male great-tailed grackle is 60% heavier than the female. The smallest icterid species is the orchard oriole, in which the female averages 15 cm in length and 18 grams in weight, while the largest is the Amazonian oropendola, the male of which measures 52 cm and weighs about 550 grams. This variation is greater than in any other passerine family. One unusual morphological adaptation shared by the icterids is gaping, where the skull is configured to allow them open their bills strongly rather than passively, allowing them to force open gaps to obtain otherwise hidden food.
Icterids have adapted to taking a wide range of foods. Oropendolas and caciques use their gaping motion to open the skins of fruit to obtain the soft insides, and have long bills adapted to the process. Others such as cowbirds and the bobolink have shorter stubbier bills for crushing seeds. The Jamaican blackbird uses its bill to pry amongst tree bark and epiphytes, and has adopted the evolutionary niche filled elsewhere in the Neotropics by woodcreepers. Orioles will drink nectar.
The nesting habits of these birds are similarly variable, including pendulous woven nests in the oropendolas and orioles. Many icterids are colonial, nesting in colonies of up to 100,000 birds. Some cowbird species engage in brood parasitism: females lay their eggs in the nests of other species, in a similar fashion to some cuckoos.
Not all species have been successful in adapting to human habitat changes, and a number of species are threatened with extinction. These include insular forms such as the Jamaican blackbird, yellow-shouldered blackbird, and the St Lucia oriole, which are threatened by habitat loss.
This family of 109 Icteridae includes New World Orioles, New World Blackbirds, Grackles, Cowbirds, Meadowlarks, Oropendolas, & Caciques. They are:
Yellow-headed Blackbird Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus
Bobolink Dolichonyx oryzivorus
Western Meadowlark Sturnella neglecta
Eastern Meadowlark Sturnella magna
Red-breasted Blackbird Sturnella militaris
White-browed Blackbird Sturnella superciliaris
Peruvian Meadowlark Sturnella bellicosa
Long-tailed Meadowlark Sturnella loyca
Pampas Meadowlark Sturnella defilippii
Yellow-billed Cacique Amblycercus holosericeus
Mexican Cacique Cassiculus melanicterus
Chestnut-headed Oropendola Psarocolius wagleri
Russet-backed Oropendola Psarocolius angustifrons
Dusky-green Oropendola Psarocolius atrovirens
Crested Oropendola Psarocolius decumanus
Green Oropendola Psarocolius viridis
Olive Oropendola Psarocolius bifasciatus
Montezuma Oropendola Psarocolius montezuma
Black Oropendola Psarocolius guatimozinus
Baudo Oropendola Psarocolius cassini
Solitary Cacique Cacicus solitarius
Golden-winged Cacique Cacicus chrysopterus
Selva Cacique Cacicus koepckeae
Ecuadorian Cacique Cacicus sclateri
Yellow-rumped Cacique Cacicus cela
Scarlet-rumped Cacique Cacicus microrhynchus
Subtropical Cacique Cacicus uropygialis
Northern Mountain Cacique Cacicus leucoramphus
Southern Mountain Cacique Cacicus chrysonotus
Band-tailed Oropendola Cacicus latirostris
Casqued Oropendola Cacicus oseryi
Red-rumped Cacique Cacicus haemorrhous
Scott’s Oriole Icterus parisorum
Yellow-backed Oriole Icterus chrysater
Audubon’s Oriole Icterus graduacauda
Jamaican Oriole Icterus leucopteryx
Orange Oriole Icterus auratus
Altamira Oriole Icterus gularis
Yellow Oriole Icterus nigrogularis
Bullock’s Oriole Icterus bullockii
Streak-backed Oriole Icterus pustulatus
Black-backed Oriole Icterus abeillei
Baltimore Oriole Icterus galbula
Yellow-tailed Oriole Icterus mesomelas
Spot-breasted Oriole Icterus pectoralis
White-edged Oriole Icterus graceannae
Campo Troupial Icterus jamacaii
Venezuelan Troupial Icterus icterus
Orange-backed Troupial Icterus croconotus
Bar-winged Oriole Icterus maculialatus
Black-vented Oriole Icterus wagleri
Hooded Oriole Icterus cucullatus
Black-cowled Oriole Icterus prosthemelas
Orchard Oriole Icterus spurius
Ochre Oriole Icterus fuertesi
Cuban Oriole Icterus melanopsis
Bahama Oriole Icterus northropi
Martinique Oriole Icterus bonana
Puerto Rican Oriole Icterus portoricensis
Montserrat Oriole Icterus oberi
St. Lucia Oriole Icterus laudabilis
Hispaniolan Oriole Icterus dominicensis
Orange-crowned Oriole Icterus auricapillus
Variable Oriole Icterus pyrrhopterus
Epaulet Oriole Icterus cayanensis
Jamaican Blackbird Nesopsar nigerrimus
Yellow-shouldered Blackbird Agelaius xanthomus
Tawny-shouldered Blackbird Agelaius humeralis
Tricolored Blackbird Agelaius tricolor
Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus
Red-shouldered Blackbird Agelaius assimilis
Screaming Cowbird Molothrus rufoaxillaris
Giant Cowbird Molothrus oryzivorus
Shiny Cowbird Molothrus bonariensis
Bronzed Cowbird Molothrus aeneus
Bronze-brown Cowbird Molothrus armenti
Brown-headed Cowbird Molothrus ater
Scrub Blackbird Dives warczewiczi
Melodious Blackbird Dives dives
Cuban Blackbird Ptiloxena atroviolacea
Rusty Blackbird Euphagus carolinus
Brewer’s Blackbird Euphagus cyanocephalus <
Common Grackle Quiscalus quiscula
Nicaraguan Grackle Quiscalus nicaraguensis
Carib Grackle Quiscalus lugubris
Greater Antillean Grackle Quiscalus niger
Boat-tailed Grackle Quiscalus major
Great-tailed Grackle Quiscalus mexicanus
Slender-billed Grackle Quiscalus palustris
Red-bellied Grackle Hypopyrrhus pyrohypogaster
Velvet-fronted Grackle Lampropsar tanagrinus
Oriole Blackbird Gymnomystax mexicanus
Colombian Mountain Grackle Macroagelaius subalaris
Golden-tufted Mountain Grackle Macroagelaius imthurni
Austral Blackbird Curaeus curaeus
Scarlet-headed Blackbird Amblyramphus holosericeus
Forbes’s Blackbird Anumara forbesi
Chopi Blackbird Gnorimopsar chopi
Bolivian Blackbird Oreopsar bolivianus
Greyish Baywing Agelaioides badius
Pale Baywing Agelaioides fringillarius
Yellow-winged Blackbird Agelasticus thilius
Pale-eyed Blackbird Agelasticus xanthophthalmus
Unicolored Blackbird Agelasticus cyanopus
Chestnut-capped Blackbird Chrysomus ruficapillus
Yellow-hooded Blackbird Chrysomus icterocephalus
Saffron-cowled Blackbird Xanthopsar flavus
Brown-and-yellow Marshbird Pseudoleistes virescens
Yellow-rumped Marshbird Pseudoleistes guirahuro
Austral Blackbird Curaeus curaeusHBW Species AccountTaxonomy: Turdus Curaeus Molina, 1782, Chile. Similar in aspect and behaviour to Gnorimopsar chopi, but molecular data suggest closer relationship with quite different Amblyramphus holosericeus. Geographical variation partly clinal, body mass increases from N to S. Proposed race recurvirostris (described from Riesco I, in S Chile), resembling reynoldsi but supposedly with slightly recurved bill, requires further study, as recent observers have not reported peculiarities in bill shape. Two subspecies recognized.
Austral Blackbird Curaeus curaeusSpecies AccountSound archive and distribution map
Austral Blackbird Curaeus curaeusSpecies AccountThe austral blackbird (Curaeus curaeus) is a species of bird in the family Icteridae. It is found in Argentina and Chile. Its natural habitats are temperate forests, subtropical or tropical high-altitude shrubland, and heavily degraded former forest.
Austral Blackbird Curaeus curaeusCornell Species AccountEcologically in the southern temperate forests and Matorral habitats, the Austral Blackbird has a role similar to that of jays in the northern hemisphere. They are found in small flocks, and usually within the forest itself. They are not an open country blackbird at all.
Boat-tailed Grackle Quiscalus majorBirdLife Species AccountThe population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Boat-tailed Grackle Quiscalus majorSpecies AccountSound archive and distribution map
Boat-tailed Grackle Quiscalus majorSpecies AccountThe boat-tailed grackle (Quiscalus major) is a passerine bird of the family Icteridae found as a permanent resident on the coasts of the southeastern United States. It is found in coastal saltwater marshes, and, in Florida, also on inland waters. The nest is a well-concealed cup in trees or shrubs near water; three to five eggs are laid.
Boat-tailed Grackle Quiscalus majorCornell Species AccountWhen you smell saltwater on the East Coast, it’s time to look out for Boat-tailed Grackles. The glossy blue-black males are hard to miss as they haul their ridiculously long tails around or display from marsh grasses or telephone wires.
Common Grackle Quiscalus quisculaBirdLife Species AccountBirdLife species profile
Common Grackle Quiscalus quisculaIUCN Species Status...For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Common Grackle Quiscalus quisculaSpecies AccountSound archive and distribution map
Common Grackle Quiscalus quisculaSpecies AccountThe common grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) is a large icterid which is found in large numbers through much of North America.
Common Grackle Quiscalus quisculaCornell Species AccountCommon Grackles are blackbirds that look like they've been slightly stretched. They're taller and longer tailed than a typical blackbird, with a longer, more tapered bill and glossy-iridescent bodies.
Crested Oropendola Psarcolius decumanausWebsiteRelationships uncertain; somewhat isolated from other members of genus. Birds from S of R Amazon sometimes treated as race maculosus (described from Yungas of Cochabamba, in Bolivia), but DNA data do not support this, showing only a certain distinctiveness for Andean populations. Three subspecies currently recognized…
Crested Oropendola Psarocolius decumanusCornell Species AccountUndoubtedly overall the commonest and most widespread oropendola, the Crested Oropendola occurs from Costa Rica, where the species arrived as recently as 1999, south over much of South America east of the Andes, as far as northeast Argentina.
Crested Oropendola Psarocolius decumanusSpecies AccountSound archive and distribution map
Crested Oropendola Psarocolius decumanusSpecies AccountThe crested oropendola also known as the Suriname crested oropendola or the cornbird (Psarocolius decumanus) is a New World tropical icterid bird. It is a resident breeder in lowland South America east of the Andes, from Panama and Colombia south to northern Argentina, as well as on Trinidad and Tobago. If the genus Gymnostinax for the Montezuma oropendola and its closest relatives were considered valid, this species would probably belong in that genus (Price & Lanyon 2002).
Crested Oropendola Psarocolius decumanusBirdLife Species AccountThe population size has not been quantified, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Great-tailed Grackle Quiscalus mexicanusWebpage(Excellent) Image + The Great-tailed Grackle is not typically thought of as a photographic subject, but occasionally one will present a nice composition. While sitting in a float tube blind waiting to photograph a Least Bittern on a Kenedy Co., Texas ranch, this female Great-tailed Grackle paused in the cattails as she approached her nest…
Great-tailed Grackle Quiscalus mexicanusBirdLife Species Account...For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Great-tailed Grackle Quiscalus mexicanusIUCN Species Status...For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern
Great-tailed Grackle Quiscalus mexicanusSpecies AccountSound archive and distribution map
Great-tailed Grackle Quiscalus mexicanusSpecies AccountThe great-tailed grackle or Mexican grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) is a medium-sized, highly social passerine bird native to North and South America. A member of the family Icteridae, it is one of ten extant species of grackle and is closely related to the boat-tailed grackle and the slender-billed grackle.
Great-tailed Grackle Quiscalus mexicanusCornell Species AccountNamed for its impressively long and wide tail, the Great-tailed Grackle is a conspicuous member of any avifauna where it is present.
Great-tailed Grackle Quiscalus mexicanusCornell Species AccountA big, brash blackbird, the male Great-tailed Grackle shimmers in iridescent black and purple, and trails a tail that will make you look twice.
Hooded Oriole Icterus cucullatusBirdLife Species Account...For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Hooded Oriole Icterus cucullatusSpecies AccountSound archive and distribution map
Hooded Oriole Icterus cucullatusSpecies AccountAdults have a curved bill which is completely black and white wing bars. The adult male has a deep yellowish orange head with black on the face and throat; they are black on the back, wings and tail, orange on the underparts. The adult female is olive-green on the upper parts, yellowish on the breast and belly. Their calls consist of whistling and wheets, while their song is a mixture of both.
Hooded Oriole Icterus cucullatusCornell Species AccountNamed for the orange hood on the male, this slender oriole is at home in suburban areas of the southwestern United States. It originally nested in the trees of desert oases, but finds ornamental trees suitable.
Hooded Oriole Icterus cucullatusImageImages of orioles at feeders…
Montezuma Oropendolas Gymnostinops montezumaImageThis nest tree is near the Chan Chich lodge, and noisy oropendolas were constantly flying in and out of it…
Montezuma Oropendolas Gymnostinops montezumaSpecies AccountThe Montezuma oropendola (Psarocolius montezuma) is a New World tropical icterid bird. It is a resident breeder in the Caribbean coastal lowlands from southeastern Mexico to central Panama, but is absent from El Salvador and southern Guatemala.
Montserrat Oriole Icterus oberiHBW Species AccountTaxonomy: Icterus oberi Lawrence, 1880, Montserrat. Formerly considered conspecific with I. laudabilis. Monotypic.
Montserrat Oriole Icterus oberiIUCN Species Status20-22 cm. Medium-sized, black-and-yellow icterid. Adult male, mostly black with yellowish lower back, rump, shoulder, lower breast, belly and undertail. Female, dull yellowish-green above and yellowish below. Immature duller.
Montserrat Oriole Icterus oberiSpecies AccountSound archive and distribution map
Montserrat Oriole Icterus oberiCornell Species AccountMontserrat Oriole is a critically endangered species endemic to an endangered island. The small island of Montserrat in the Lesser Antilles has been under the spell of the Soufriere Hills volcano since 1995, when the volcano became active and lava flows and ashfall destroyed the southern half of this beautiful island.
Montserrat Oriole Icterus oberiBirdLife Species AccountThis species has always had an extremely small range, but volcanic eruptions during the late 1990s caused an extremely rapid population decline and extirpated it from all but two disjunct areas.
Montserrat Oriole Icterus oberiSpecies AccountThe Montserrat Oriole (Icterus oberi) is a medium-sized black-and-yellow icterid (the same family as many blackbirds, meadowlarks, cowbirds, grackles, and others, including the New World orioles).
Orange-backed (Oriole) Troupial Icterus croconotusBirdLife Species AccountThis species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation).
Orange-backed (Oriole) Troupial Icterus croconotusHBW Species AccountTaxonomy: Ps.[arocolius] croconotus Wagler, 1829, “Mexico”; error = River Tapajós, Pará, Brazil. Closely related to I. icterus and I. jamacaii; the three are often regarded as conspecific, but no intermediates or hybrids known in limited areas where ranges of present species and I. jamacaii overlap in Brazil (R Palmeiras, in Tocantins), and no hybrids reported in areas where sympatry with escaped captives occurs (e.g. around Belém, in Pará, in N Brazil). Proposed taxon paraguayae (described from 265 km W of Puerto Casao, in Paraguayan Chaco), sometimes treated as a race of I. jamacaii, is subsumed in race strictifrons of present species. Two subspecies recognized.
Orange-backed (Oriole) Troupial Icterus croconotusSpecies AccountSound archive and distribution map
Orange-backed (Oriole) Troupial Icterus croconotusSpecies AccountThe orange-backed troupial (Icterus croconotus) is a species of bird in the family Icteridae.
Orange-backed (Oriole) Troupial Icterus croconotusCornell Species AccountAll of the different troupial populations were formerly regarded as representing a single species, but nowadays three different species are recognized, of which the Orange-backed Troupial is the most widespread and the southern and western representative. It is found over much of the lowlands of northern and western Amazonia, and south to Paraguay and northeastern Argentina, and the species is generally found in close proximity to water.
Orchard Oriole Icterus spuriusBirdLife Species AccountBirdLife species profile
Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceusSpecies AccountThe red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) is a passerine bird of the family Icteridae found in most of North and much of Central America. It breeds from Alaska and Newfoundland south to Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, Mexico, and Guatemala, with isolated populations in western El Salvador, northwestern Honduras, and northwestern Costa Rica.
Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceusCornell Species AccountOne of the most abundant birds across North America, and one of the most boldly colored, the Red-winged Blackbird is a familiar sight atop cattails, along soggy roadsides, and on telephone wires. Glossy-black males have scarlet-and-yellow shoulder patches they can puff up or hide depending on how confident they feel.
Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceusHBW Species AccountHBW Alive contains information on Descriptive notes, Voice, Habitat, Food and Feeding, Breeding, Movements, Status and Conservation plus a list of bibliographical references for this species account.
Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceusSpecies AccountSound archive and distribution map
Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceusBirdLife Species Account...of least concern
Russet-backed Oropendola Psarocolius angustifronsBirdLife Species AccountThis species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation).
Russet-backed Oropendola Psarocolius angustifronsImage(Very clear) Image
Russet-backed Oropendola Psarocolius angustifronsHBW Species AccountTaxonomy: Cassicus angustifrons Spix, 1824, São Paulo de Olivença, south bank of upper River Solimões, west Amazonas, Brazil.Taxonomy complex and confusing. Nominate race has blackish bill; the other six races, with yellow bill, may represent a distinct species. Recent fieldwork in foothills of Colombian E Andes revealed that race neglectus does not associate with nominate, the two behaving as separate species, and this supported by DNA studies indicating considerable sequence divergence between the four N Andean forms (Venezuela S to Ecuador) and nominate race; also, songs of some of N Andean races are distinctive. On other hand, DNA divergence between alfredi and nominate was relatively small, and songs of the two are similar, suggesting that they are conspecific (also, intermediate specimens reported from E Ecuador). Analyses of mitochondrial DNA indicate considerable divergence between some montane populations, which may deserve full species status, but a more detailed analysis of the full complex is needed. Proposed race australis (described from Santa Cruz, in C Bolivia) supposedly darker than alfredi, but considered to fall within range of variation of latter and therefore synonymized with it. Seven subspecies currently recognized.
Russet-backed Oropendola Psarocolius angustifronsSpecies AccountSound archive and distribution map
Russet-backed Oropendola Psarocolius angustifronsSpecies AccountThe russet-backed oropendola (Psarocolius angustifrons) is a species of bird in the family Icteridae. It is found in wooded habitats in the highlands of the northern and central Andes and the Venezuelan Coastal Range, and in lowlands of the western Amazon. It is generally common and widespread. Males are larger than females, but otherwise the genders are similar. Its plumage is mainly olive and brown, and the outer rectrices are contrastingly yellow. The lowland nominate subspecies has a black bill, while the highland subspecies all have pale bills. These have been regarded as separate species, but as they hybridize freely, all major authorities now regard them as a single species.
Russet-backed Oropendola Psarocolius angustifronsCornell Species AccountIn Amazonia, Russet-backed Oropendola is the most abundant oropendola species. They also occur in the humid subtropical forest of the both Andean slopes, where they are the only oropendola.
Yellow-rumped Cacique Cacicus celaBirdLife Species Account...For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Yellow-rumped Cacique Cacicus celaHBW Species AccountHBW Alive contains information on Descriptive notes, Voice, Habitat, Food and Feeding, Breeding, Movements, Status and Conservation plus a list of bibliographical references for this species account.
Yellow-rumped Cacique Cacicus celaSpecies AccountSound archive and distribution map
Yellow-rumped Cacique Cacicus celaSpecies AccountThe yellow-rumped cacique (Cacicus cela) is a passerine bird in the New World family Icteridae. It breeds in much of northern South America from Panama and Trinidad south to Peru, Bolivia and central Brazil. However, they have been sighted as far north as Nayarit state in Mexico.
Yellow-rumped Cacique Cacicus celaCornell Species AccountYellow-rumped Cacique is a widely distributed icterid, and is a common sight throughout lowland evergreen forests from Panama and Trinidad south to Peru, Bolivia, and central Brazil. This species primarily forages in the canopy along forest borders, such as along rivers, lakes, or other open areas such as fields. This diet is onmivorous; the cacique largely feeds on insects and other arthropods, but also consumes some fruit and nectar.
Number of bird species: 109
New World Blackbirds - The IcteridsAlvaro Jaramillo & Peter Burke Helm 1999 ISBN: 0713643331 Buy this book from NHBS.com
Red-winged Blackbird VideoVideoThe Music of Nature proudly presents "Red-winged Blackbird," a delicious video portrait of a male in full song. The Red-winged Blackbird is common across North America, breeding in marshes and meadows. Excited males puff out their red epaulets (shoulder pads) as they sing.