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Audubon's Oriole Life History

Habitat

Habitat Open Woodlands

In Texas, Audubon’s Orioles frequent a wooded and brushy habitats, including mesquite bosques, wooded streams, and sometimes oak stands. Ravines and creeks with willows or stands of phragmites can be good places to find them. They often appear in well-vegetated backyards with bird feeders, especially when good nesting habitat is nearby. In Mexico, Audubon’s Orioles use a much greater range of habitats, from near sea level to cloud forests, including pine-oak, pine, and deciduous forests, stream corridors, arid thorn forest and scrub, and shade coffee plantations. Although often seen at forest edges, Audubon’s Orioles spend more time foraging in dense vegetation than other orioles, and they also conceal their nests more deeply in heavy cover than do many other oriole species.

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Food

Food Insects

Audubon’s Orioles eat mainly insects, spiders, and fruit, which they take by gleaning from vegetation or the ground, often in areas of dense vegetation. Like many members of the blackbird family, they also expose hidden prey by “gaping”—inserting the heavy bill into the ground or into vegetation, then opening it, making a gap that allows them to seize prey such as insect larvae. Their diet includes beetles, butterflies, caterpillars, spiders, mesquite beans, cactus fruit, hackberries, and other wild berries. In orchards they eat peaches, apples, and plums, and they readily eat sunflower seeds at feeders. Occasionally, they drink nectar from hummingbird feeders.

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Nesting

Nest Placement

Nest Tree

Females probably select the nest site, usually in the outer branches of a tree, about 5–15 feet above the ground (often higher in Mexico), sometimes in Spanish moss.

Nest Description

Females build a shallow hanging cup suspended from a branch, woven of grasses and plant fibers (palmetto especially), and usually lined with grass, plant fiber, and hair. Nests average about 3.7 inches across and 3.7 inches tall, with interior cup about 3.0 inches across and 2.8 inches deep.

Nesting Facts

Clutch Size:3-5 eggs
Egg Description:

Pale bluish white, with dark streaks and blotches, heaviest at large end.

Condition at Hatching:

Helpless.

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Behavior

Behavior Foliage Gleaner

Audubon’s Orioles begin singing steadily in spring, often when rains begin to make their habitats more verdant and increase insect activity. Males and females sing the same song, and males follow females closely as they build the nest, the two staying in close contact with calls and singing. No courtship display is known. Both sexes react to the presence of other Audubon’s Orioles near the nest, hopping, calling, singing, and sometimes chasing the intruder, but intense territorial clashes are uncommon. Females alone build the nest. Both sexes incubate the eggs and feed the young, which may remain with the parents for several months after fledging. Audubon’s Orioles appear to be monogamous. Pairs often remain together during the nonbreeding season, when they also join others of their species or mixed-species flocks that include jays, tanagers, and other oriole species.

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Conservation

Conservation Restricted Range

Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population of Audubon's Oriole at 3.5 million, but fewer than 5,000 are thought to breed in the United States. The group ranks the species 13 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, indicating a species of low conservation concern. This species has declined in Texas, at least since the 1920s, and has even disappeared from the largest national wildlife refuges in South Texas. Vulnerability to cowbird parasitism, habitat loss, and fragmentation suggest that special measures may be needed to maintain some populations.

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Backyard Tips

Audubon’s Orioles may come to backyards, especially ones with thick vegetation or fruiting shrubs. They eat sunflower seeds from feeders and may also visit hummingbird feeders.

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Credits

Flood, Nancy J., James D. Rising and Timothy Brush. (2002). Audubon's Oriole (Icterus graduacauda), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Partners in Flight (2017). Avian Conservation Assessment Database. 2017.

Rosenberg, K. V., J. A. Kennedy, R. Dettmers, R. P. Ford, D. Reynolds, J. D. Alexander, C. J. Beardmore, P. J. Blancher, R. E. Bogart, G. S. Butcher, A. F. Camfield, A. Couturier, D. W. Demarest, W. E. Easton, J. J. Giocomo, R. H. Keller, A. E. Mini, A. O. Panjabi, D. N. Pashley, T. D. Rich, J. M. Ruth, H. Stabins, J. Stanton, and T. Will (2016). Partners in Flight Landbird Conservation Plan: 2016 Revision for Canada and Continental United States. Partners in Flight Science Committee.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.

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