The Scott's Oriole is almost completely confined to the Lower and Upper Sonoran Zones. This oriole breeds in the Lower Sonoran Zone from southern California, Nevada, Utah, western Colorado, central New Mexico and western Texas and south into Mexico, to Nuevo Leon, Vera Cruz, Puebla, and Lower California. Of these, Vera Cruz seems to be the least rich in Scott's Orioles, most likely due to its humid mountains. This bird's range is not changing at this point , however, with increasing climate change, the range will most likely move.
It winters in northwestern Mexico from Lower California, Sonora and Chihuahua, along the coast south to Oaxaca and in southern California. It is present year-round in the central and southern regions of Mexico. It is casually found throughout the western portion of the United States and also in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Louisiana. (Bailey, 1928; Brandt, 1951; Ligon, 1961; Loetscher, 1955)
Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); neotropical (Native )
occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Breeding
Global Range: BREEDING: Nevada, Utah, north-central Arizona, north-central New Mexico, western Texas, south through southeastern California to southern Baja California, southeastern Sonora, Durango, southeastern Coahuila, locally to Michoacan and western Oaxaca. NON-BREEDING: southern California (rare), northern Baja California and south to Oaxaca (Terres 1980; AOU 1983).
The length of male Scott's Oriole is about 18.48-20.4 cm while its wings are 9.36-10.08 cm long. Its tail is 7.92-9.36 cm long. It has a sharp, pointed, dark bill that has a length of 2.16-2.4 cm. The feet of this bird are fitted only for perching. Adult males, in the spring and summer, have a black head and breast. Portions of the back, wings and tail are also black in color. Their scapulars, posterior parts of their backs, their bellies, rumps, shoulder patch, basal part of the tail, and upper and under tail and wing coverts are a bright lemon-yellow. There is no orange present on the Scott's Oriole, unlike other orioles. A white wing bar is also present. Males' bills are black with an upper base that is bluish gray. Adult males in the winter look similar to how they do in the summer, except that the white markings on the wings are broader, the feathers of the back are edged with gray, the rump and upper tail coverts are washed with olive or gray and their flanks are tinged with an olive color. Immature males have similar characteristics with females, however, the immature male's head is mostly black by its first spring, while the female's is only black when it is very old. It takes two years for a juvenile to reach full plumage.
Females are, on average, smaller than the males. Adult females have olive-gray under parts and top of the head with dark streaks on the back. There is no brown present on the body. The body color becomes yellowish on the rump and upper tail coverts. They also have two wing bars, as opposed to the male's one wing bar. The female's throat is sometimes spotted, clouded, or washed with black. Old females usually have a completely black throat. Immature females are duller in color, without a trace of black. (Bailey, 1928; Brandt, 1951; Ligon, 1961; Phillips, 1964)
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Length: 23 cm
Weight: 37 grams
Catalog Number: USNM A4056
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Birds
Sex/Stage: Male; Adult
Preparation: Skin: Whole
Collector(s): D. Couch
Year Collected: 1853
Locality: Santa Catarina, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, North America
- Type: Couch. (Not Earlier Than April 25) 1854. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia. 7 (2): 66.
Chihuahuan Desert Habitat
This taxon is found in the Chihuahuan Desert, which is one of the most biologically diverse arid regions on Earth. This ecoregion extends from within the United States south into Mexico. This desert is sheltered from the influence of other arid regions such as the Sonoran Desert by the large mountain ranges of the Sierra Madres. This isolation has allowed the evolution of many endemic species; most notable is the high number of endemic plants; in fact, there are a total of 653 vertebrate taxa recorded in the Chihuahuan Desert. Moreover, this ecoregion also sustains some of the last extant populations of Mexican Prairie Dog, wild American Bison and Pronghorn Antelope.
The dominant plant species throughout the Chihuahuan Desert is Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata). Depending on diverse factors such as type of soil, altitude, and degree of slope, L. tridentata can occur in association with other species. More generally, an association between L. tridentata, American Tarbush (Flourensia cernua) and Viscid Acacia (Acacia neovernicosa) dominates the northernmost portion of the Chihuahuan Desert. The meridional portion is abundant in Yucca and Opuntia, and the southernmost portion is inhabited by Mexican Fire-barrel Cactus (Ferocactus pilosus) and Mojave Mound Cactus (Echinocereus polyacanthus). Herbaceous elements such as Gypsum Grama (Chondrosum ramosa), Blue Grama (Bouteloua gracilis) and Hairy Grama (Chondrosum hirsuta), among others, become dominant near the Sierra Madre Occidental. In western Coahuila State, Lecheguilla Agave (Agave lechuguilla), Honey Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa), Purple Prickly-pear (Opuntia macrocentra) and Rainbow Cactus (Echinocereus pectinatus) are the dominant vascular plants.
Because of its recent origin, few warm-blooded vertebrates are restricted to the Chihuahuan Desert scrub. However, the Chihuahuan Desert supports a large number of wide-ranging mammals, such as the Pronghorn Antelope (Antilocapra americana), Robust Cottontail (Sylvilagus robustus EN); Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus), Grey Fox (Unocyon cineroargentinus), Jaguar (Panthera onca), Collared Peccary or Javelina (Pecari tajacu), Desert Cottontail (Sylvilagus auduboni), Black-tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus), Kangaroo Rats (Dipodomys sp.), pocket mice (Perognathus spp.), Woodrats (Neotoma spp.) and Deer Mice (Peromyscus spp). With only 24 individuals recorded in the state of Chihuahua Antilocapra americana is one of the most highly endangered taxa that inhabits this desert. The ecoregion also contains a small wild population of the highly endangered American Bison (Bison bison) and scattered populations of the highly endangered Mexican Prairie Dog (Cynomys mexicanus), as well as the Black-tailed Prairie Dog (Cynomys ludovicianus).
The Chihuahuan Desert herpetofauna typifies this ecoregion.Several lizard species are centered in the Chihuahuan Desert, and include the Texas Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma cornutum); Texas Banded Gecko (Coleonyx brevis), often found under rocks in limestone foothills; Reticulate Gecko (C. reticulatus); Greater Earless Lizard (Cophosaurus texanus); several species of spiny lizards (Scelopoprus spp.); and the Western Marbled Whiptail (Cnemidophorus tigris marmoratus). Two other whiptails, the New Mexico Whiptail (C. neomexicanus) and the Common Checkered Whiptail (C. tesselatus) occur as all-female parthenogenic clone populations in select disturbed habitats.
Representative snakes include the Trans-Pecos Rat Snake (Bogertophis subocularis), Texas Blackhead Snake (Tantilla atriceps), and Sr (Masticophis taeniatus) and Neotropical Whipsnake (M. flagellum lineatus). Endemic turtles include the Bolsón Tortoise (Gopherus flavomarginatus), Coahuilan Box Turtle (Terrapene coahuila) and several species of softshell turtles. Some reptiles and amphibians restricted to the Madrean sky island habitats include the Ridgenose Rattlesnake (Crotalus willardi), Twin-spotted Rattlesnake (C. pricei), Northern Cat-eyed Snake (Leptodeira septentrionalis), Yarrow’s Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus jarrovii), and Canyon Spotted Whiptail (Cnemidophorus burti).
There are thirty anuran species occurring in the Chihuahuan Desert: Chiricahua Leopard Frog (Rana chircahuaensis); Red Spotted Toad (Anaxyrus punctatus); American Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus); Canyon Treefrog (Hyla arenicolor); Northern Cricket Frog (Acris crepitans); Rio Grande Chirping Frog (Eleutherodactylus cystignathoides); Cliff Chirping Frog (Eleutherodactylus marnockii); Spotted Chirping Frog (Eleutherodactylus guttilatus); Tarahumara Barking Frog (Craugastor tarahumaraensis); Mexican Treefrog (Smilisca baudinii); Madrean Treefrog (Hyla eximia); Montezuma Leopard Frog (Lithobates montezumae); Brown's Leopard Frog (Lithobates brownorum); Yavapai Leopard Frog (Lithobates yavapaiensis); Western Barking Frog (Craugastor augusti); Mexican Cascade Frog (Lithobates pustulosus); Lowland Burrowing Frog (Smilisca fodiens); New Mexico Spadefoot (Spea multiplicata); Plains Spadefoot (Spea bombifrons); Pine Toad (Incilius occidentalis); Woodhouse's Toad (Anaxyrus woodhousii); Couch's Spadefoot Toad (Scaphiopus couchii); Plateau Toad (Anaxyrus compactilis); Texas Toad (Anaxyrus speciosus); Dwarf Toad (Incilius canaliferus); Great Plains Narrowmouth Toad (Gastrophryne olivacea); Great Plains Toad (Anaxyrus cognatus); Eastern Green Toad (Anaxyrus debilis); Gulf Coast Toad (Incilius valliceps); and Longfoot Chirping Toad (Eleutherodactylus longipes VU). The sole salamander occurring in the Chihuahuan Desert is the Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum).
Common bird species include the Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus), Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia), Merlin (Falco columbarius), Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), and the rare Zone-tailed Hawk (Buteo albonotatus). Geococcyx californianus), Curve-billed Thrasher (Toxostoma curvirostra), Scaled Quail (Callipepla squamata), Scott’s Oriole (Icterus parisorum), Black-throated Sparrow (Amphispiza bilineata), Phainopepla (Phainopepla nitens), Worthen’s Sparrow (Spizella wortheni), and Cactus Wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus). In addition, numerous raptors inhabit the Chihuahuan Desert and include the Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) and the Elf Owl (Micrathene whitneyi).
Scott's Orioles often live in yucca gardens on desert grassland prairies, but they have been found wherever yucca is growing, even on the hillsides of mountain canyons. It primarily uses Torrey and soaptree yuccas. Occasionally, these orioles have been found to live in other small, or large, trees. When they are in trees other than yuccas, they often feed and sing in pines, oaks, and riparian areas within pine-oak areas. In the summer, though, they most often live in live oak, Joshua trees and yucca. They always live within range of a reliable water source. They often shun the humid, forested mountains and the high plains areas. The Scott's Oriole, however, has been found in the lowest and hottest parts of New Mexico. They are most common on and near the desert foothills and mountains of southern and southwestern New Mexico. These birds prefer south-facing slopes. (Bailey, 1928; Brandt, 1951; Kozma et. al, 1997; Ligon, 1961; Marshall, 1957; Phillips, 1964)
Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; chaparral
Habitat and Ecology
Comments: Yucca, pinyon-juniper, arid oak scrub and palm oases (upper Tropical to lower Temperate zones) (AOU 1983). Foothills, desert slopes of mountains, and more elevated semi-arid plains (Bent 1958). Nests in trees or yuccas, 1-6 m above ground.
Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.
Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).
Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.
Migratory in northern part of breeding range; generally migrates south of U.S.-Mexico border for winter. Returns to U.S. nesting range usually by end of March or during first half of April, males preceding females (Terres 1980).
The Scott's Oriole mainly eats insects, such as grasshoppers, small beetles, caterpillars, butterflies and insect larvae. It also eats berries and cactus fruit. It will also sometimes probe flowers for nectar. This bird obtains gleans insects that are attracted to the flowers of yuccas. The ants, bees and other insects that are attracted to this plant's flower provide an ample food source.
They also utilize the century plants' and lechuguillas' as a food source for the nectar and insects attracted to these blossoms. Flowers of the agave also provide insects for this Oriole to feast upon.
When away from their nests and getting food, Scott's Orioles do not appear to be aggressive to other birds that are also attempting to feed. (Bailey, 1928; Brandt, 1951; Del Rio, 1987).
Comments: Feeds on insects (grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars, etc.), fruit (cactus fruit and berries), and nectar. Forages in foliage for insects and berries.
Territories of singing males are widely spaced. Densities of 10 pairs/40 ha in oak woodland and 2 pairs/40 ha in oak-juniper-pine woodland have been reported (Bureau of Land Management, no date).
Life History and Behavior
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Status: wild: 77 months.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
The Scott's Oriole breeds in spring and summer. The eggs are laid in nests located in shrubs and in the canopies of trees at the branch base. The height of the nesting season is in late May or early June. It is a monogamous species that is with its mate for one breeding season. Its eggs have an incubation period of 7-14 days. The nestling period is 14 days. The average number of offspring per reproductive effort is 3-4 chicks. Both parents take care of the young. Males demand a large territory in order to attract a mate and will defend it well. It is possible that the Scott's Oriole could be subject to cowbird parasitism because cowbirds are present within the orioles' range. If parasitism is occurring, however, it does not appear to have an effect on population sizes.
The Scott's Oriole weaves a pendant nest made out of the tough fibers of the dried leaves of the yucca and palm fibers. The color of these dried leaves acts as camouflage for the nest. It hangs its nest high up in the yucca, amongst the long, green leaves. It is usually placed in the dead portion of the yucca, underneath the live crown, where it is laced to the dead blades. This provides protection from bad weather and any enemies that may come along.
At times, the Scott's Oriole will construct its nest with grasses and hang it from other trees, including junipers and scrub pinion. Occasionally the nests are hidden in clumps of mistletoe and lined with a few horse hairs. The nest of the Scott's Oriole is so well constructed that it often remains intact for several years.
The eggs of the Scott's Oriole are bluish in tint and the largest of the orioles in the southwestern United States. There are usually 3 or 4 that are blotched, streaked and spotted with black, gray, or brown and purple, typically around the larger end of the egg. (Bailey, 1928; Brandt, 1951; Ligon, 1961; Marshall, 1957)
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous
Average time to hatching: 14 days.
Average eggs per season: 3.
Clutch size is 2-4 (usually 3). Incubation, by female, lasts about 14 days. Young leave nest in about 14 days.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Icterus parisorum
Below is the sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen.
Other sequences that do not yet meet barcode criteria may also be available.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Icterus parisorum
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
The Scott's Oriole is not listed on any of the IUCN's species list. This bird appears to be quite numerous. Scott's Orioles are extremely dependent upon yucca for their nests, food and protection. It is quite obvious that the Scott's Oriole shares a mutualism with the yucca plant. The yucca is very important to the life of the Scott's Oriole. Decimation of yucca populations by cattle grazing has been and is detrimental to this species. Southwestern desert areas where yuccas are found must be protected from destruction in order to keep Scott's Orioles' populations healthy.
On top of this, many of the best yucca plants that are left are located by the side of roads. This is very dangerous for these birds because they often are hit by automobiles when attempting to leave their nest, cross the road, and find food or a mate.
Agaves are also important to the Scott's Oriole, for many of the same reasons that yuccas are important. They also provide food and shelter for Scott's Orioles and so they too must be protected.
Populations of Neotropical bird migrants have declined recently, most likely due to the destruction of breeding and wintering habitat. This, too, could happen to the Scott's Oriole if habitat destruction continues in southwestern United States and Mexico. (Bailey, 1928; Brandt, 1951; Kozma et al, 1997)
US Federal List: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N5B - Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
There does not appear to be any negative economic consequences to the Scott's Oriole. It does not decimate yucca populations nor does eat anything of economic value to the human population.
This bird is an important natural control of insects. Scott's Orioles are vitally important to the yucca because they keep the number of pronumba moths low. These moths use the seeds of the yucca as food for their larvae. When the moths are fluttering about the yucca, the Scott's Oriole can have a quick and easy meal.
The Scott's Oriole also serves as an attraction to birders around the world. Birding tourists bring money into the southwest United States and Mexico, thereby supplementing the economy of both areas. (Brandt, 1951).