Also called the Yellow-Tailed Cornbird and Weaver Bird, is a well-known feature at the Centre and is distributed throughout valleys of the northern range. It is easily recognised by its striking yellow tail and signature courtship display in which the male bows over on a branch while shaking its bright yellow tail in the air, fanning its wings and vocalising an unmelodic song, all designed to impress the female. Both male and female birds look alike with black bodies, chestnut abdomens, blue eyes and yellow tails.
The male birds, however, are much larger, ranging from 17-20 inches and have a narrow black crest; the females are 13 inches, duller and lack the crest. This bird is a member of the family American Orioles (Ictaridae), comprising varied groups including Cowbirds, Caciques, Grakles and Blackbirds. While each group appears dissimilar to the others, they all have the characteristic long conical bill.
Many relatives share the skill of intricately weaving hanging nests, although the Oropendolas are further distinguished by their much larger nests, shaped like a long teardrops. Nesting birds are also easily recognized by their nest-building which can be seen between January and March on emergent trees, particularly Mountain Immortelle trees.
During the nesting season, inhabited trees are filled with these giant nests attached to most of the tree’s branches and reminiscent of strange fruits. Nesting has started at the Centre and usually continues through to the end of April. These large voracious omnivores regularly visit the feeders, chasing away other birds and clearing the trays of bread and fruit. Looking out from the main verandah at Asa Wright, one can see nests being constructed on the adjacent Mountain Immortelle tree, which in also now in bloom. Come take a look!