Published On: Sat, Feb 2nd, 2019


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ORCHARD ORIOLE, Icterus spurius, Calandria Castaña (Spanish), Yuya, Yuyum (Mayan)

When I first glimpsed the darkish yellow bird feeding in a jabin or habin tree in Aqua Parque, I knew it was too big for a Yellow Warbler. But close looks at the bird escaped me. In my mind’s rolodex perhaps it might be a female Summer Tanager, but then I saw a black bib. That reminded me of a Hooded Oriole.

Immature male Orchard Oriole with pollen on bill
Hooded Oriole male with black bib

Next I saw an oriole I did recognize with its black head and throat and burnt sugar body color, the Orchard Oriole. Close to that adult an immature male appeared. This young male seemed unsure which colors to wear with its splotchy patchwork. (Puts a new meaning in “collide-a-scope”.)

Colorful immature Orchard Oriole

Then I saw a different yellow bird without the black throat flitting amongst the flowers, but it looked too small to be a Hooded Oriole.

Female Orchard Oriole

When I asked my birding friend about it, she said it was a female Orchard Oriole. I actually told her it didn’t look like one. Well, I was wrong. And the first one with the black throat was also a different age of an immature Orchard Oriole male.

Front of female Orchard Oriole

Upon closer observation, the feeding behaviors and their plumages intrigued me. This small flock fed on tropical flowering trees, but I also realized pollen could be transferred from feathers and bills to the next flower. Note the yellowish pollen grains on their bills.

Adult Orchard Oriole feeding on nectar
Pollen and petals on bill of Orchard Oriole
Female Orchard Oriole readies to feed on nectar

We often associate hummingbirds with nectar feeding and even offer them sugar water in hummingbird feeders. But do we also think about how hummingbirds are pollinators too? And do we realize that other bird species do the same?

Research indicates that male Orchard Orioles seem especially attracted to the coral bean tree (Erythrina fascia) and may have co-evolved with it. It is the main pollinator for this species, however, it consumes nectar from a variety of plants. Some it pollinates; others it pierces the flower base only and misses the pollen.

In some flowers, nectar, that sugar-rich liquid, mainly contains sugars along with amino acids, proteins, salts, and oils.

As the smallest of all oriole species, the Orchard Oriole gleans insects and spiders from foliage but shifts mainly to fruit before fall migration. In Central America it winters on berries and other fruits, nectar, and pollen. As a Yucatan winter resident, it visits Sept. to mid-May before returning to the US and Canada.

How happy I was to capture part of this feeding behavior as well as learning about the different plumages of the Orchard Oriole, an orchard of colors!



Jabin/Jabim or Habin/Habim, Fishpoison tree, Jamaican dogwood, fishfuddle  Piscidia piscipula

Yellow Warbler, Setophaga petechia, Chipe Amarillo (Spanish)

Summer Tanager, Piranga rubra, Piranga Roja (Spanish), Xjeret (Mayan)

Hooded Oriole, Icterus cucullatus,  Calandria Dorso Negro Menor (Spanish)Yuya Yuyum (Mayan)

Orchard Oriole, Icterus spurius, Calandria Castaña (Spanish), Yuya, Yuyum (Mayan)

DISCLAIMER: References do not agree on details about these species:

Sal a Pajarear Yucatan, Birds & Reserves of the Yucatan Peninsula, A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America

Cherie Pittillo, “nature inspired,” photographer and author, explores nature everywhere she goes. She’s identified 56 bird species in her Merida, Yucatan backyard view. Her monthly column features anecdotes about birding in Merida, Yucatan and also wildlife beyond the Yucatan.

Contact:  All rights reserved, ©Cherie Pittillo



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