Chestnut-headed oropendola

Chestnut-headed Oropendola

Chestnut-headed Oropendolas at the nest

Chestnut-headed Oropendolas at the nest

Costa Rica has three oropendola species, but San Antonio normally sees only the Montezuma oropendola (Psarocolius montzuma). Locals call them oropeles, even though this is really the name of a snake. The Montezuma can be seen here every day, but this very rainy week, a single Chestnut-headed Oropendola (Psarocolius wagleri) has appeared at the banana feeder. This is only my second sighting here in the village area, though they can be found fairly regularly just a short distance away at San Diego and at Guayabo National Monument.

When seen up close, this is an astonishing bird. Its ivory-coloured upper mandible seems to extend to the top of the head, exaggerating the size of the bill. Its blue eye combines to give it a quite ferocious appearance, and it seems to take precedence over the Montezuma when they feed together. It has a couple of feathers that straggle back from the head, rather like those on some heron species, though not so conspicuous. It seems to me to be a chestnut-coloured bird with black wings and yellow tail, but the pure-white bill is its most striking feature.

The third oropendola species, the Crested Oropendola (Psarocolius decumanus), is found only in the extreme south of the country and, so far, can be discounted for our area.

Rather than repeat my grainy photo from an earlier post, I have shown Richard Garrigues‘ excellent shot of two birds at their hanging nests, which incidentally give oropendolas their name.

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