Beak of the Week – Hooded Oriole

Hooded Oriole (Icterus cucullatus)

Family: Icteridae

By Carrie Chapin, Houston Audubon Conservation Technician

A rare visitor to the eastern Texas coast, a Hooded Oriole was recently photographed in Boy Scout Woods Bird Sanctuary in High Island! Only staying for part of a day, this individual was one of the billions of birds that pass through Texas during spring migration. Hooded Orioles, like other orioles, are larger than warblers and about the same size as the various tanager species. Male Hooded Orioles are yellow-orange and have a black throat that extends around the eye. They also have two white wingbars, the upper one more distinct than the lower one, and a slightly downcurved bill. In contrast, immature Orchard Orioles are more olive-yellow and have a more strongly curved bill than those of Hooded Orioles. Female Hooded Orioles are pale yellow, have a grayish back, and display two pale white wingbars.

Hooded Orioles forage in sparse trees, taking insects from the leaves and nectar from flowers. They sometimes drink from hummingbird feeders, too. On select palm trees in the southwestern U.S. or northern Mexico, the female weaves a hanging nest about twenty feet off the ground. This elaborate nest is stitched to the bottom of the leaves, much like those made by other oriole species. Hooded Oriole populations have remained relatively stable over the last fifty years; however, parasitic Brown-headed and Bronzed Cowbirds are causing declines in Hooded Oriole populations in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Interestingly, the planting of ornamental palm trees is allowing Hooded Orioles to expand their range northwards.

While the individual found in High Island has not been seen since, it is well worth checking fruit trees and open areas for this amazing species. At the very least, you may find a Baltimore or Orchard Oriole to brighten your day.

 Visit our Bird Gallery to read about other Texas birds! 

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