The Unique Puerto Rican Oriole

Closely related to other oriole species found on various Caribbean islands, Puerto Rican orioles are endemic to the island of Puerto Rico. They favor palm trees as their habitat, and are found in tropical and subtropical forests, as well as mangroves and cultivated agricultural areas up to an altitude of around 1,000 meters. Prior to 2010, when the American Ornithologists’ Union recognized them as separate species, the Puerto Rican oriole had been grouped with the Hispaniolan Oriole, Bahama Oriole and Cuban Oriole as a single species in the genus Icterus – New World blackbirds.

Apart from their lower bellies, shoulders and lower backs being bright yellow, Puerto Rican orioles (Icterus portoricensis) are dense black in color. Juvenile birds are a yellowish-brown (tawny) color, with a bit of an olive green tint to their rumps, but by the time they reach sexual maturity, there is little distinguishable difference between males and females, although females are generally slightly smaller. Males, on average, weigh around 41 grams with an average wingspan of 96.9mm. Orioles are endothermic, meaning that they use metabolically generated heat in order to regulate their body temperature, irrespective of what the ambient temperature may be.

As with most New World blackbird species, Puerto Rican orioles appear to be monogamous, mating for life. They breed from February to July, singing to attract a mate and then performing duets with their chosen mate. They lay about 3 eggs per clutch which are white tinged with blue and have speckles on. Their nests can be seen hanging below branches and palm trees. Although not much is known about the parental skills of the Puerto Rican oriole, it is thought that they behave similarly to closely related species, which gather in family groups with both parents rearing the young.

While they are not particularly shy birds, they spend most of the day foraging for food – fruit, nuts, insects and lizards – in dense vegetation and may be difficult to spot. So, when visiting the spectacular natural areas of the Enchanted Island, keep an eye out for the attractive little Puerto Rican oriole.

Picture Attribution: Kati Fleming (Wikimedia)