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Photograph courtesy Ron Teel

Yellow Rumped Cacique

Black with yellow lower back, rump, belly and wing patch. The yellow is best seen when the bird is in flight. There is a short black crest on the male. The bill is white and the eyes blue. The female is like the male but smaller (males are between 50% - 90% larger) and lacks the crest. The size is approximately 11 inches for the male and 9 inches for the female.

It is sometimes confused with the Crested Oropendola which has a long yellow tail, while the Yellow-rumped Cacique has a relatively short black tail with yellow on the undertail coverts. In a manner similar to the crested oropendola, when singing the male bows, raises his rump and vibrates his wings. Skutch describes the songs as Chee cha chu chu-a series of full liquid notes descending in pitch, perhaps the bird’ s masterpiece; "Key a woo woo a woo; Key what; A woo woo; Kee-ee; Key ye yu." Another difference between the Cacique and the Oropendola, is that with the Oropendola the entire flock leaves the nesting colony to feed as a flock, but the female cacique generally forages alone.

Resident in Trinidad, these birds prefer open spaces with large trees. They frequent mainly the tops of the trees, however I have observed them flying and landing on the midlevel of trees during the late evening close to their roosting time. They are gregarious birds and travel in loose flocks.The wing beat of the male is heavy and audible whereas the flight of the female is almost silent.

They feed on invertebrates (beetles, caterpillars, spiders),fruit and leaves. They are noisy birds at nesting colonies.

Caciques build their nests in trees away from the forest, either at the forest edge, in clearings or in lagoons. They will also build their nests close to human habitation, if the tree is sufficiently large and isolated. The nests are built close together in a colony.Their nests are similar to the nests of the crested oropendola but shorter with a short neck, more oblong in shape and placed closer together. Sometimes the nests are interwoven. The nest opening is at the top on the side. In a Cacique colony there will be active nests and abandoned nests clustered together. When possible, Cacique cluster their nests within 2m of the nests of wasps. These wasps attack any large animal that approaches,including caciques. Cacique colonies are attacked by several different predators, including mammals, snakes, and birds. The wasps provide protection against these attacks. When Toucans and Caracaras attack active nests, the caciques will dive at them and peck them on the rumps. The more individuals that attack these predators, the more likely the caciques will drive them away before they have time to open the nests. When Great Black-Hawks attack a colony, they search both active and abandoned nests by shaking them to learn which nests have young birds. If they encounter several abandoned nests consecutively they will leave the colony. Great Black-Hawks also experience difficulty searching clusters of interwoven nests, possibly because they cannot shake each nest individually.

Family - Orioles

Other Names - Yellow-backed Cornbird

Latin Name - Cacicus cela

Range - Panama south to Peru

 

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Cumana, Toco, Trinidad

 

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Cumana, Toco, Trinidad

References

Scott K. Robinson, 1985. COLONIALITY IN THE YELLOW-RUMPED CACIQUE AS A DEFENSE AGAINST NEST PREDATORS. The AUK 102 516 - 519

John Kricher, 1997. A Neotropical Companion: Chapter 12 Neotropical Birds. Princeton University Press

Life Histories of Central American Birds. Alexander F. Skutch. 1954, Cooper Ornithological Society

Birds of Venezuela. Steven L. Hilty. 2003, Christopher Helm, London

A Guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago. 2nd edition, Richard ffrench. 1992, Helm, London

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Last modified: February 16, 2008