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A photo of a Montezuma Oropendola (Psarocolius montezuma)
Montezuma Oropendola

Montezuma Oropendola

Psarocolius montezuma

The Montezuma oropendola, Psarocolius montezuma, is a strikingly dimorphic bird, with males significantly larger than females. Adult males boast a chestnut body contrasted by a blackish head and rump, and a vivid yellow tail save for two central dark feathers. Their facial features include a bare blue cheek patch and a pink wattle, with a brown iris and a long bill that is black at the base and red at the tip. Females are similar in plumage but are smaller with a less prominent wattle. Juveniles appear duller with a paler bill. This species is known for its remarkable sexual size dimorphism, with males being twice the body mass of females.

Identification Tips

When identifying the Montezuma oropendola, look for the male's large size, about 50 cm in length, and the bright yellow tail with dark central feathers. Females are notably smaller, measuring 38 cm. The distinctive blue cheek patch, pink wattle, and two-toned bill are key features to observe.

Habitat

This tropical bird inhabits the forest canopy, edges, and old plantations, preferring the Caribbean coastal lowlands and some Pacific slopes.

Distribution

The Montezuma oropendola ranges from southeastern Mexico to central Panama, with notable absences in El Salvador and southern Guatemala. It is also found in Nicaragua, Honduras, and parts of Costa Rica.

Behaviour

Males exhibit a female-defence mating system, where the dominant male mates with most females in a colony after an elaborate bowing display. They are known to be aggressive in defending receptive females from other males. Females forage on thinner branches, while males prefer thicker branches, likely due to their size difference.

Song & Calls

The male's song is an "unforgettable" series of bubbling and gurgling sounds, ending in a loud gluuuuu. Both sexes emit loud cack and crrrk calls. Males at breeding sites may alter the lowest peak frequency of their song to out-compete rivals.

Breeding

Montezuma oropendolas are colonial breeders, with females constructing the nests. These woven nests hang from trees and can be up to 180 cm in length. The dominant male in the colony mates with most females. Females lay two dark-spotted eggs, incubating them for 15 days, with fledging occurring in 30 days.

Similar Species

The chestnut-headed oropendola shares some of its range but is smaller, mainly black with a chestnut head, and lacks the colored facial patches, making confusion unlikely.

Diet and Feeding

Omnivorous, these birds forage for small vertebrates, large insects, nectar, and various fruits, including bananas and Cecropia spikes. They are often seen in flocks outside the breeding season, indicating some mobility and seasonal movements.

Conservation status

The Montezuma oropendola is currently classified as Least Concern by the IUCN, indicating a stable population without significant threats.

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Montezuma Oropendolas on Birda

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