Crested Oropendola – invader from Panama

The subject of this post, the Crested Oropendola (Psarocolius decumanus), is a fairly recent invader of Costa Rica from Panama, enabled by deforestation. It was pretty much omnipresent on our trip to Finca La Estrella and was a new species for me.

Here in the Turrialba area you can’t miss the loud-and-long  gurgling sound of the Montezuma Oropendola (Psarocolius montezuma), the largest and most gaily coloured of Costa Rica’s 3 oropendola species.

Oropendola, Montezuma CATIE canal (2)

Montezuma Oropendola at CATIE, Turrialba. Photo by John Beer.

It is a colonial nester that affixes its long, hanging nests high in isolated trees. Fallen nests are even used as decoration in some rural homes.

Oropendola, Montezuma, nests, Cristina de la Suiza (2)

Oropendola nests near La Suiza, Turrialba; photo by John Beer

The Montezuma Oropendola is absent from the southern Pacific (and indeed from almost all the Pacific Coast including dry Guanacaste in the north). It is replaced in a large part of the southern Pacific by the Chestnut-headed Oropendola (Psarocolius wagleri), an otherwise Caribbean species, which is also found in our area but usually in more forested environments. The Chestnut-headed is very similar to the Crested Oropendola but is rather smaller. It shares the ivory bill, blue eye-ring and yellow tail:

Oropendola, Chestnut-headed, CATIE, Canal (5)

Chestnut-headed Oropendola at CATIE, Turrialba. Photo by John Beer.

In Costa Rica, the Crested Oropendola is found only adjacent to the Panamanian border. It differs from the Chestnut-headed in having a black head and a harsh call note that is quite unlike the liquid sound of the Chestnut-headed.

Oropendola, Crested, Finca Estrella

Crested Oropendola at Finca La Estrella. Photo by John Beer.

Each day at Finca La Estrella we had beautiful sunsets over the Pacific Ocean:

Finca La Estrella Sunset

Sunset at Finca La Estrella, courtesy of Larry Waddell.

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