Black-cowled Oriole

Black-cowled Oriole (Icterus prosthemelas): Bolsero capuchinegro; Oriole monacal; Gelbschultertrupial

I think the German name above gets it about right: the ‘yellow-shouldered oriole’, as they call it. This is generally a bird of the Caribbean lowlands and when it appears in my San Antonio garden it’s at the limits of its range both in terms of distance from the Caribbean coast and in elevation. Though I’m fairly sure that it has nested in San Antonio, it does not appear here very frequently. Recently John and Milena have found this handsome species more regularly at their lower elevation near Santa Rosa, and John captured some excellent shots:

Black-cowled Oriole; photo by John Beer

This species ranges from southern Mexico to western Panama, with populations also in the Bahamas and the Antilles. In Costa Rica it is primarily a bird of the Caribbean lowlands. It is a strange fact that, in the Americas, any given resident oriole species tends to be more sexually dimorphic the further north you go. Hence, adult male and female Black-cowled Orioles in Costa Rica, which are near the southern end of their geographic range, tend to be indistinguishable, whereas their southern Mexican counterparts can be clearly identified as to sex, with females resembling immatures. The adult below seems dissatisfied with life outdoors:

Let me in!

The Black-cowled Oriole is really the only resident oriole species in the Turrialba area, though another yellow-and-black species, the Yellow-tailed Oriole (Icterus mesomelas), is a resident of the Caribbean Coast and lowlands up to around 300 m. It is now a very rare species, having suffered persecution for the cage-bird trade because of its beautiful song.

Our final photograph from the files, also from Santa Rosa, shows an adult Black-cowled Oriole holding on tight to a güitite berry:

Black-cowled Oriole with güitite; photo by John Beer

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