13 June, 2010

Belize Bird of the Week # 6 -- Black-Cowled Oriole (Icterus prosthemelas)

The Black-cowled oriole (Icterus prosthemelas) is found in Mexico (the Yucatan in particular), Belize, and Guatemala near the Atlantic. One of the references I am using (The Birds of Mexico and Adjacent Areas, Ernest Preston Edwards) lists it as rare, but it was very conspicuous at our place on the southern coast of Belize. In fact it was the most abundant of the 3 oriole species (Baltimore and Orchard orioles were the other 2), that we saw there in April. However, Birds of Belize (H. Lee Jones, Dana Gardner, authors) lists it as common.
It is easy to see how it gets its name; the heads of the males are black, front and back, just as if they are wearing black cowls covering their heads, chests, and part of their backs. Their tails are black, as are their wings except for their wrists which have a yellow patch. There are no bars on their wings. The rest of the belly and back are bright yellow. One interesting feature of their beak is that at least 1/3rd of the bottom beak at the base is bluish.

They love to feed on the abundant hibiscus flowers, and often hang upside down to get to the nectar.
Some, but not all, females don’t have the full black cowl of the male. Instead the crown and back of the head of the female is a yellowish-olive color. In the collage below a female is gathering a strand from a palm leaf while the male looks on from an upper palm leaf. You can easily see the bluish color at the base of the lower beak on both males and females.
They also feed on palm flowers, as you can see from the photos below.
All of these photos were taken just outside our cabana. When they are intent on feeding, you can get quite close to them. In fact I was too close to them feeding on the palm flowers to use the telephoto lens; I had to use my normal lens instead.

I couldn’t get an accurate count of them because they are very busy birds, but I estimate that we saw at least 7 different individuals feeding right around the cabana during the 2 weeks we were there in April. The black-cowled orioles are year-round residents of Belize. I look forward to getting to know them better.


  1. Thoroughly enjoying your'Bird of the Week' series Wilma. You really have some
    beautiful birds to go with the stunning scenery at your cabana.

  2. A great series of photos of some really colourful birds there Wilma. Lovely that you can get close to some of them.

  3. What an amazing bird and what a splendid set of pictures you got. Well done Wilma!

  4. Great collages Wilma, so much colour.

  5. A beautiful bird. Such a contrast of colour.

  6. Great series of a beautiful bird. If you keep post like this I am going to have to visit you so I can see these birds. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Karen -- glad you are enjoying the series. I am enjoying reliving the moments too.

    John -- it is so nice to have birds right near the cabana; and so photogenic too! Thanks.

    Chris -- thanks for stopping by to look. Your recent trip certainly provided good birds!

    Roy -- thanks! I was in need of all that color during the week of drizzle and rain we were having.

    Keith -- all the orioles are colorful. Be sure to check out the next post. Thanks for your comments. :-)

    Bill -- thanks for stopping by and commenting. Once we are in Belize full-time you'll have to stop by in person!



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