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Variable Oriole Icterus pyrrhopterus


The name Variable Oriole is a new one to many birders, as this was part of the Epaulet Oriole up until recently. Essentially, the darker shouldered versions to the south of the Amazon Basin have been separated from the yellow shouldered types to the north (which in turn sometimes include the Moriche Oriole, depending on the taxonomy used). This oriole’s taxonomy is complex, but in some areas of Bolivia, yellow shouldered (Epaulet), and chestnut-shouldered (Variable) orioles are found in the same areas without any evidence of hybridization. There is no purer test of species status than that! The Variable Oriole is a species of woodland, open forest, second growth, parks, gardens and urban areas even. Unlike the more northern Epaulet Oriole, it has no particular preference or requirement for palms, particularly Moriche Palm. It is found from sea level to at least 1500m in elevation. The widespread southern form, pyrrhopterus, of the Variable Oriole is all black with a chestnut epaulet. It is a small and very thin and long-tailed species. Farther north in Bolivia and W Brazil the epaulet is slightly lighter, tawny in color. In south central Brazil the epaulets become more tawny-yellow, while in eastern Brazil the Variable oriole has even more yellowish epaulets as well as yellow thighs.

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Song (Chestnut-shouldered)

© Natxo Areta

  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding

Recommended Citation

Variable Oriole (Icterus pyrrhopterus), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: