Oriolidae – Old World Orioles, Pitohuis & Figbirds

Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis ©Craig Brelsford Website

The Old World orioles (Oriolidae) are an Old World family of passerine birds. That comprises the figbirds in the genus Sphecotheres, and the Old World orioles in the genus Oriolus. Several other genera have been proposed to split up the genus Oriolus. For example, the African black-headed species are sometimes placed in the genus Baruffius. In 2011 the genus Turnagra was found to be placed within this family. The family is not related to the New World orioles, which are icterids, family Icteridae.

The orioles and figbirds are medium-sized passerines, around 20–30 cm in length, with the females only slightly smaller than the males. The beak is slightly curved and hooked, and, except in the figbirds, as long again as the head. The plumage of most species is bright and showy, although the females often have duller plumage than the males. The plumage of many Australasian orioles mimics that of friarbirds (a genus of large honeyeaters), probably to reduce aggression against the smaller orioles.

Orioles are monogamous, breeding in territorial pairs (although the Australasian Figbird, and possibly also the other figbirds, breed in loose colonies). Nesting sites may be chosen near aggressive species such as drongos, shrikes or friarbirds, which confer a degree of protection. The nest is a deep woven cup suspended like a hammock from a branch. They usually lay two or three eggs, but as many as six have been recorded.

The family is distributed across Africa, Europe, Asia, and Australia. The few temperate nesting species are migratory, and some tropical species also show seasonal movements. Orioles are arboreal and tend to feed in the canopy. Many species are able to survive in open forests and woodlands, although a few are restricted to closed forest. They are opportunistic omnivores, with the main components of their diet being fruit, berries, arthropods, and nectar.

According to the IOC there are 36 extant species of Orioles and Figbirds in the family Oriolidae; they are:

Green Figbird Sphecotheres viridis
Wetar Figbird Sphecotheres hypoleucus
Australasian Figbird Sphecotheres vieilloti

Northern Variable Pitohui Pitohui kirhocephalus
Raja Ampat Pitohui Pitohui cerviniventris
Southern Variable Pitohui Pitohui uropygialis
Hooded Pitohui Pitohui dichrous

Brown Oriole Oriolus szalayi
Dusky-brown Oriole Oriolus phaeochromus
Grey-collared Oriole Oriolus forsteni
Black-eared Oriole Oriolus bouroensis
Tanimbar Oriole Oriolus decipiens
Olive-brown Oriole Oriolus melanotis
Olive-backed Oriole Oriolus sagittatus
Green Oriole Oriolus flavocinctus
Dark-throated Oriole Oriolus xanthonotus
Philippine Oriole Oriolus steerii
White-lored Oriole Oriolus albiloris
Isabela Oriole Oriolus isabellae
Eurasian Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus
Indian Golden Oriole Oriolus kundoo
African Golden Oriole Oriolus auratus
Slender-billed Oriole Oriolus tenuirostris
Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis
Green-headed Oriole Oriolus chlorocephalus
Sao Tome Oriole Oriolus crassirostris
Western Black-headed Oriole Oriolus brachyrynchus
Ethiopian Oriole Oriolus monacha
Mountain Oriole Oriolus percivali
Eastern Black-headed Oriole Oriolus larvatus
Black-winged Oriole Oriolus nigripennis
Black-hooded Oriole Oriolus xanthornus
Black Oriole Oriolus hosii
Black-and-crimson Oriole Oriolus cruentus
Maroon Oriole Oriolus traillii
Silver Oriole Oriolus mellianus

Species Links
  • Australasian Figbird Sphecotheres vieilloti

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Australasian Figbird Sphecotheres vieilloti

    Species Account
    The Australasian figbird (Sphecotheres vieilloti) is a conspicuous medium-sized passerine bird native to a wide range of wooded habitats in northern and eastern Australia, southern Papua New Guinea, and the Kai Islands in Indonesia
  • Eastern Black-headed Oriole Oriolus larvatus

    BirdLife Species Account
    BirdLife species profile…
  • Ethiopian Black-headed Oriole Oriolus monacha

    Species Account
    This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion
  • Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus

    Species Account
    The Eurasian golden oriole or simply golden oriole (Oriolus oriolus) is the only member of the oriole family of passerine birds breeding in Northern Hemisphere temperate regions. It is a summer migrant in Europe and western Asia and spends the winter season in central and southern Africa.
  • Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus

    RSPB Species Account
    Blackbird-sized the male has an unmistakable bright yellow body with black wings.
  • Maroon Oriole Oriolus traillii

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Maroon Oriole Oriolus traillii

    Species Account
    The maroon oriole (Oriolus traillii) is a species of bird in the family Oriolidae.
  • Western Black-headed Oriole Oriolus larvatus

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 36

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