Creature Feature: Oropendola

oropendola 2Photo by John Swartz,

Arguably one of the most interesting birds in the Bladen Nature Reserve, in terms of its song, nest-building skills and appearance, is the Montezuma’s oropendola, locally known as yellow-tail. Just upstream from the BFREE crossing is a rookery of around 100 nests, hanging high above the tranquil Bladen River.

oropendola 1

Photo by John Swartz,

The extraordinary song of this outlandish-looking bird consists of eerie vocalization that begins with a few high-pitched thin notes followed by a sound like the crumpling of brittle paper, and ends with an explosive, rich, hollow gurgling that carries for a considerable distance. This distinctive song is produced while the bird falls forward, remaining attached to the limb in a flipping motion – a bizarre feat to behold!

Considered a signature species of the rainforest, the bird’s nest-building skills are legendary. The four-foot long nests are constructed from thin strips of palm leaves skillfully woven into safe and sound brooding baskets. Like many of the bat species in the Maya Mountains, the oropendola is a frugivore, eating a variety of wild figs, sapodilla fruits and mammay apples, and is therefore considered an important agent of seed dispersal in tropical rainforests. These incredible birds are just one of the over 350 species of birds documented at BFREE.

2 replies
  1. Angela Kargul
    Angela Kargul says:

    I was just there a week or so ago and remember the beautiful sound of this bird. I was wondering where I could get a recording of it. If there is one.

  2. Mariah Wilson
    Mariah Wilson says:

    Hi! Just left a voicemail on the US number, but figured I would write as well. I am doing some research for an upcoming PBS Nature episode and had some questions about the Oropendola Rookery nearby BFREE.

    We are looking to profile Oropendolas in our show and highlight their unique nest building skills. What time of year does the rookery near you come to life for mating and breeding? Most of my research indicates that the breeding season is from December to June, but if you could give me any specifics as to when the Oropendolas there build their nests and lay their eggs, that would be great.

    Also, if we were interested in filming the birds near BFREE, what sort of permissions would we need?

    You can reach me at, or 917 450 4539, or let me know a time to contact you.

    Thanks in advance for your help!

    Mariah Wilson


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