The National Bird of Venezuela, this South American oriole has been a prized cage bird for more than 150 years. The painter, Henri Mattise, included one in his collection of tropical birds that he kept to “tune his colors”. They are sometimes known as “Bugle Birds” for their piercing, melodious voices. Chicks have hatched at the DWA.
Depending on the light, males may appear black, bright red, pink, or purple. Research conducted at Yale University’s Peabody Museum of Natural History, with the assistance of the DWA, has established that this species’ color is due to unique carotenoid pigments previously unknown in birds.
This strange bird, with its bald head and huge dark eyes, is also known as the Calf bird, because of its remarkably loud deep call. Like the Cock-of-the-rock, it is a member of the Cotinga family, found only in Tropical America. Its range is defined by the intersection of three rivers: Amazon, Orinoco, and Rio Negro. Though first taken into captivity nearly 60 years ago, it has always been a treasured rarity in zoos. Until the DWA achieved multiple successes in 2011, the only full captive breedings had been at San Diego Zoo, in the 1990s.
Every year since 2007, this remarkable bird has reproduced at the DWA. Through May 2011, 40 had hatched here, with 26 surviving to independence. Prior to this time, the total number successfully reared in US zoos were four at Houston and one at San Diego, with the last hatching occurring in 1989. Offspring from the DWA have been sent around the world, and the first second generation breedings took place at the San Diego Zoo in 2011, with males from Dallas. While performing their courtship display, males make buzzing shrieks that can be heard throughout the Orinoco. Nesting takes place in specially built artificial caves.
Found mostly in Brazil, as well as bordering parts of Bolivia and Paraguay, this uniquely colored jay could be seen in several American zoos in the 1970s, but has not been imported for many years. The DWA’s specimen, received through the cooperation of the Brazilian Government in 2000, is probably the only one outside of South America.
Like the Green oropendola, this species comes from Northeastern South America. Its icy blue eyes contrast with its black feathers. The yellow tail feathers of oropendolas are prized by Native Americans for use in elaborate head dresses. Oropendolas prefer building their nests over water, and several can always be observed over the Orinoco crocodiles. Both Green and Crested oropendolas have bred at the DWA.
These enormous grackle relatives are one of several species that build the hanging nests, looking like hairy bags, which can be seen in various places in the Orinoco rainforest. Males are much larger than females. The aquarium’s specimens are very fond of crickets and other insects and will come down to visitor level when their keeper provides them. They are skillful at picking them up with their beautiful two-colored beaks.