The oropendola gets its name from the male’s mating behavior. It hangs upside down like a pendulum, spreads its wings, and sings to females. Displaying males perform a deep bow while singing “St-st-ee-ee-ee-EE-EE-EE-wooo” or “CreeeEEEoooooooooo.” Both males and females make a loud, harsh “kak-kak-kak” alarm call.
What They Eat
Oropendolas are omnivores that forage mostly in the upper areas of trees. They feed on a variety of fruit, nectar, insects, spiders, and small vertebrates such as tree frogs.
Where They Live
These birds are found from Costa Rica south through South America’s Amazon River Basin. They prefer edges and clearings of tropical and sub-tropical forests. Second growth forests, savannahs and plantations with large trees are also preferred.
What They Do
Female oropendolas make one of the most unusual nests in the bird world. Up to 100 feet above the ground, the nest is woven from grasses and palm frond fibers, and can measure over five feet long. Despite the nest’s large size, it is suspended by only a few strands of grass. The female incubates two eggs, while the male protects the nest from predators such as snakes and monkeys.
How They’re Doing
Crested oropendolas are listed as a species of “least concern” of extinction. They are common throughout much of their range and their population is stable. However, deforestation throughout its range in the Amazon may cause the population to decline in future generations.
- Crested oropendolas are a type of blackbird. Males are mainly black with bright yellow feathers in their tail. Their eyes have striking blue irises. Females are similar, but smaller and duller in color.
- Male crested oropendola’s have a few thin feathers that form a “crest.”
- During nest building, female crested oropendolas will steal nesting material from each other and from nests of other birds.
- Crested oropendolas breed in polygamous colonies, meaning a dominant male will sire the majority of chicks in a flock. A colony may contain 2-43 nests.
- Crested oropendola eggs can be bluish-white, pale grey or buff with blackish spots and lines.
- The oil from a crested oropendola’s preen gland gives this bird a distinctive musky smell.
Crested oropendolas are not globally threatened. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists them as a species of “least concern” for risk of extinction. The global population is stable and they are common throughout much of their wide range. In fact, in some areas they are considered agricultural pests and are persecuted. Another threat to their survival is deforestation; however, they seem to tolerate deforestation better than other rainforest species. While oropendolas seem to tolerate deforestation better than many other rainforest species, habitat loss is projected to cause the population to decline over future generations.
Things the Zoo’s Done/Doing
The Minnesota Zoo participates in the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for crested oropendolas. An SSP is a carefully-managed, cooperative breeding program for select species in zoos and aquariums. In 2018, the Minnesota Zoo successfully hatched and raised two crested oropendola chicks.