English Name: hooded oriole
Spanish Name: calandria, bolsero encapuchado
View all images of Icterus cucullatus
This species is present in the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum's live collection.
Hooded Oriole (Icterus cucullatus)
Sharply-pointed bill, two white wing bars. Male: black back, wings and tail and a large black bib from face to upper chest; orange head, belly, rump; white wing bars. Female: olive green above, olive-yellow below. The immature male looks like the female, but has a small black bib.
Open woods, tree plantations, palms, city parks, and suburbs; favors groups of palms for nesting, even when these trees are in cities.
• Diet: Feed primarily on insects and take lesser quantities of fruit and nectar.
• Behavior: Forage by searching for insects in trees and shrubs; flowers are visited for nectar; feeders with sugar-water also attract orioles. The Hooded Oriole is a slow and deliberate forager, which makes it a rather easy bird to observe in the field.
The nest of orioles is often parasitized by cowbirds; the aggressive young cowbird usually receives the most food which eventually starves the oriole nestlings.
The Hooded Oriole lays three to five bluish or grayish-white, spotted eggs in a long, hanging, woven pouch that it enters from the top. The nest usually hangs in a palm, large yucca or a eucalyptus tree. Incubation is by the female and takes twelve to fourteen days; both parents feed the nestlings.
Blackbirds & Orioles
The blackbird family is hard to characterize because it includes such diverse types: orioles, meadowlarks, grackles, cowbirds, and others. Most have at least some black in the plumage, and their other colors run to warmer tones, such as yellow, brown, and orange. All the species have sharply-pointed bills. Most are more or less omnivorous. None is adapted to extreme desert conditions, but several species make inroads to the Sonoran Desert.
Orioles in general are treetop birds, moving methodically through the foliage in search of insects, often stopping at flowers to add some nectar to their diet.
In the lowlands of the Southwest, Hooded Orioles and Bullock's Orioles occur mainly as summer residents in riverside woodlands. The Hooded Oriole has a special liking for palms, however, and it may be common in desert cities where palms have been planted.
Great-tailed Grackles are recent arrivals in this region. Spreading north through Mexico, they did not reach Arizona until 1936. Even today they are closely associated with water, living near riversides, ponds, irrigated farmland, or watered lawns. Sociable birds, they nest in colonies and sleep in large communal roosts, where their cacophonous voices make them a little too conspicuous for some tastes.
Cowbirds' nesting behavior — or lack of it — makes them the most unpopular of the blackbirds and, perhaps, the most interesting. Cowbirds lay their eggs in the nests of other birds, leaving the unwitting hosts to hatch the eggs and feed the young. In many cases, only the young cowbirds survive. Cowbirds are seldom seen in natural desert areas in winter, when they mostly forage in agricultural land; but in the breeding season, Brown-headed Cowbirds and Bronzed Cowbirds infiltrate the desert (and most other habitats), seeking nests to parasitize.