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Crested oropendola

Psaracolius decumanus

Description: Adult males are dark brown or black almost all over. The rump and thighs have traces of chestnut. The long tail is bright yellow, except for two black feathers, which are shorter than the other feathers and are also centrally located on the tail. A thin black crest is visible when the male is excited. A large, pale ivory, cone-shaped bill contrasts with the black on the head, as do the blue eyes. The female is similar in appearance, except lacks the crest and is more brownish than the male.

Size: Adults range in size from 13-17 inches (33-43 cm), with males being significantly larger than the females. Females weigh around six ounces (170 gr) and males weigh approximately 10ounces (284 gr).

Behavior: Crested oropendolas are very gregarious and social birds. They flock together in the winter and roost in large numbers. During breeding season they nest in colonies to offer better protection from predators. The name comes from the male’s mating behavior. He will hang upside down from a nest and rock it (like a pendulum) spread his wings and sing to prospective mates. Each flock has a dominant male, which has usually fathered most of the younger birds in the colony.

Diet: Diet consists of insects, seeds, grain, fruit and nectar.

Senses: They have good eyesight that is used for finding food and evading predators.
Communication: Outside of the breeding season, the crested oropendola is nearly silent. The most common calls are variations on “creeeeeooooooo”.

Reproduction: Pendulous nests, measuring three to six feet (0.9 – 1.8 m) in length, are woven out of grass and palm fibers and hung in high branches of isolated trees. Males defend the nest as their young are being raised. Breeding season occurs from November through April. The average clutch has one or two pale green or gray eggs. The female will incubate the eggs alone for 15-19 days. Young are fledged after about a month.

Habitat/range: As long as there are tall nesting trees available, the Crested oropendola is not picky about its habitat. It generally avoids arid and urbanized areas and prefers forest edges. Their range is from Panama and Colombia down to northern Argentina.

Status: Listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.