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Overview

Distribution

Range

SE Mexico (arid Yucatán Peninsula).

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Geographic Range

Orange orioles (Icterus auratus) are endemic to the the Yucatan peninsula (Davis 1972; Howell and Webb 1995; Jaramillo and Burke 1999), including the Mexican states Quintana Roo, Campeche, and Yucatan as well as the northern tip of Belize. Considering the narrow range inhabited by this species, it is unsurprising that there does not appear to be any evidence of regional physical or behavioral variation.

Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Native )

  • Jaramillo, A., P. Burke. 1999. New World Blackbirds: The Icterids. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Howell, S., S. Webb. 1995. A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc..
  • Davis, L. 1972. A field guide to the birds of Mexico and Central America. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

As their name implies, orange orioles are primarily orange and black, although many other oriole species are as orange. The bill is straight and black, fading to blue at the base of the lower mandible. In adult males, the head, upperparts, and underparts are orange, the body being more yellow than the head and nape (Howell and Webb 1995; Jaramillo and Burke 1999). By contrast, the throat patch, lores, and shoulders are black (Howell and Webb 1995; Jaramillo and Burke 1999). Two broad white wing bars are visible against each brownish-black wing; occasionally, only one wing bar is visible, the other having been lost through abrasion. The primary flight feathers are edged in white, forming a characteristic “handkerchief” (Jaramillo and Burke 1999).

Adult females are similar to adult males but duller. Their upperparts are washed olive. Jaramillo and Burke (1999) report that adult females are also more yellow than their male counterparts. In addition, the wingbars are narrower than in males. The tail is brown instead of black, though the overall pattern is conserved.

Immature males are similar to adult females, but with a brighter, wider wing bar (Jaramillo and Burke 1999). By contrast, the wing bar is absent in immature females. Immature females in particular have greener upperparts than those of adult females (Howell and Webb 1995). Unlike adult members of this species, both immature males and immature females have olive tails.

Juveniles are similar to immature members of the species, though they entirely lack black; the regions that are black in adults are instead dark brown (Jaramillo and Burke 1999). Wing bars, though present, are yellow (Howell and Webb 1995).

Orange orioles molt once yearly in the months following the breeding season (Jaramillo and Burke 1999).

Several species have plumage resembling that of Icterus auratus; these include hooded orioles (Icterus cucullatus), yellow-backed orioles (Icterus chrysater), and orchard orioles (Icterus spurius). Orange orioles can be distinguished from hooded orioles in the following manner: hooded orioles have a curved bill and lack the wing markings (the “handkerchief”) seen in adult orange orioles. Yellow-backed orioles resemble adult orange orioles but, as their common name implies, are yellow; in addition, yellow-backed orioles are somewhat larger. Orchard orioles have a similar plumage pattern and overall body size, but are much darker; male orchard orioles also lack the handkerchief found in adult male orange orioles (Jaramillo and Burke 1999).

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes colored or patterned differently; male more colorful

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Orange orioles are a riparian edge species; they tend to live in forested habitat near bodies of flowing fresh water (Jaramillo and Burke 1999; Skutch 1996). Open woodlands and forest edge are preferred habitats but they are also commonly found in scrub forest and savanna, including flooded scrub forest (Howell and Webb 1995). Orange orioles may also be found near cenotes, a type of flooded sinkhole that is common in the Yucatan (Jaramillo and Burke 1999).

Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; scrub forest

Other Habitat Features: agricultural ; riparian

  • Skutch, A. 1996. Orioles, Blackbirds, & Their Kin: A Natural History. Tucson, AZ: The University of Arizona Press.
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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Little is known regarding the diet of orange orioles. However, considering the food habits of other species in the genus Icterus, orange orioles are most likely insectivorous, supplementing their diet with nectar, berries, and occasionally orchard fruit.

Animal Foods: insects

Plant Foods: fruit; nectar

Primary Diet: omnivore

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Their role in the Yucatan ecosystem could not be verified from available data; however, they are likely to be responsible for dispersing the seeds of some plants.

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Predation

Although statistics regarding predation on orange orioles by other species are not available, one can make several speculations based on the incidence of predation and nest parasitism in other Central American oriole species. Likely predators include jays, snakes, and squirrels, all of which feed on the eggs and young of several oriole species. This species is also most likely parasitized by brown-headed cowbirds, which is known to lay eggs in the nests of several other blackbird and oriole species.

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Orange orioles generally have a melodious whistling voice, a characteristic they share with most of the other Icterus species. Jaramillo and Burke (1999) describe the song as a sweet whistle with notes lasting an average of two seconds. The song frequently changes in pitch, doing so about four times per second. In addition, orange orioles possess a chattering call described by Davis (1972) as “a thin introduction followed by a series of che figures”.

Communication Channels: acoustic

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Due to insufficient data, the longevity of this species could not be assessed.

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Reproduction

Orange orioles tend to be colonial nesters, a trait unusual for members of the genus Icterus. Orange orioles breed once yearly, in groups of up to 35 nests. It is common to observe multiple nests in a single tree, with a maximum concentration of 5 nests to a tree (Jaramillo and Burke 1999).

Nests are found between the upper branches of trees and low bushes, and are most often hung less than 10 meters from the ground. Nests are often found in trees overhanging bodies of water, especially sinkholes (cenotes) (Howell and Webb 1995). Orange oriole nests are wide, pendant structures that are shallow relative to the nests of other oriole species (Howell and Webb 1995; Jaramillo and Burke 1999). Nests are usually woven of fine plant fibers in a loose pattern such that light can easily penetrate the weave (Howell, Webb, and DeMontes 1992). They are often easy to spot, considering their unusual construction and conspicuous locations (Jaramillo and Burke 1999).

Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)

Due to a lack of information, parental investment in this species could not be determined.

  • Jaramillo, A., P. Burke. 1999. New World Blackbirds: The Icterids. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Howell, S., S. Webb. 1995. A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc..
  • Howell, S., S. Webb, B. DeMontes. 1992. Colonial nesting of the orchard oriole. Wilson Bulletin, 104(1): 189-190.
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species has a very 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). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be moderately small to large, 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.
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According to BirdLife International (2010), the species is listed as “Least Concern” for the following reasons. It is estimated that there are in excess of 20,000 mature individuals occupying more than 100,000 square kilometers of territory. These data do not fall below the thresholds for “Vulnerable” status as indicated by the IUCN. Especially large populations of orange orioles may be found in Belize.

US Migratory Bird Act: no special status

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Population

Population
Partners in Flight estimated the population to number fewer than 50,000 individuals (A. Panjabi in litt. 2008), thus it is placed in the band 20,000-49,999 individuals here.

Population Trend
Stable
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

This species does not appear to negatively impact the economy in the regions where it is found.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Orange orioles have not been extensively studied, with only a handful of peer-reviewed articles in existence that deal with this species. As such, this species and its attendant ecosystems is a candidate for scientific investigation. Because it is a striking species not observed outside the Yucatan, this species may also be of interest to tourists and birdwatchers.

Positive Impacts: ecotourism ; research and education

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Wikipedia

Orange Oriole

The Orange Oriole (Icterus auratus) is a species of bird in the Icteridae family. It is found in Belize and Mexico.

Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry forests and heavily degraded former forest.

References[edit]


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