Lucky visitors to UGACR may get a chance to see or hear the Montezuma Oropendola, one of the nearly 230 bird species present in San Luis. This mouthful belongs to the family Icteridae, which includes the more commonly known blackbirds and orioles. The Montezuma Oropendola’s beautiful colors and unique behaviors make it a fascinating bird to learn about and is one of my personal favorites to observe.
Though watching the male’s display is always a thrill, as they bow from their perches, flipping completely upside down while raising their wings and bright yellow tails, gurgling loudly (this impresses the ladies), one of the most interesting aspects of the Montezuma Oropendola is its nesting behavior. Preeminent biologists Stiles and Skutch call oropendolas “the most impressive weavers in the Western world,” and indeed, the nest of an oropendola is quite a sight to see (1989). The colonial oropendolas weave long, pendulous nests to defend against predators. They locate their nests in communal trees, typically in open areas, making them easy for any birder to spot. This strategy provides some defense against the hungry, egg-stealing monkeys who are typically reluctant to cross open ground. Locating their colonies close to those of bees and wasps who will readily attack intruders also protects the oropendolas from predators.
Travelers can find three of the thirteen Neotropical species of Oropendolas throughout Costa Rica and most commonly see the Montezuma Oropendola on campus, though they may see the Chestnut-Headed Oropendola as well. The Montezuma Oropendola is just one of many exciting birds that visitors can see here on campus at UGACR.
A Neotropical Companion by John Kricher
A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica by F. Gary Stiles and Alexander F. Skutch
This Friday Fun Fact and bird expertise were contributed by Resident Naturalist Lillie Kline.