Family New World Blackbirds (Icteridae)

Least Concern

Black-cowled Oriole (Icterus prosthemelas)


French: Oriole monacal German: Gelbschultertrupial Spanish: Turpial cabecinegro

Xanthornus prosthemelas


, 1850,



Formerly regarded as conspecific with Greater Antillean group of species (I. northropi, I. melanopsis, I. dominicensis and I. portoricensis), but this treatment not supported by DNA data. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • I. p. prosthemelas (Strickland, 1850) – SE Mexico (from Veracruz E to Yucatán and Quintana Roo) and Caribbean lowlands from Belize, N Guatemala and N Honduras S to C Costa Rica.
  • I. p. praecox A. R. Phillips & Dickerman, 1965 – SE Costa Rica (Limón) and W Panama (Bocas del Toro to Coclé).
  • Descriptive notes

    18·5–21 cm; male average 32·5 g, female average 27·5 g. Male nominate race has head to breast and back black, rump and uppertail-coverts yellow; upperwing black, lesser and... read more


    Song a rich warbling series of scratchy notes, rather quiet. Calls include a fast chatter, a... read more


    Occupies humid forest edges, riparian forest, old second-growth forest, banana plantations, and... read more

    Food and feeding

    Insects and other arthropods, fruits and nectar. Feeds on fruits of Cecropia, Ehretia tinifolia and Talisia... read more


    Season Mar–Jul in Costa Rica. Probably monogamous. Solitary breeder; in Yucatán Peninsula, single pairs may nest in or near... read more


    Apparently resident.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Fairly common to locally common in N of range; fairly abundant in Costa Rica; rarer in Panama. In Costa Rica, and possibly elsewhere, able to thrive... read more

    Recommended citation

    Fraga, R. (2020). Black-cowled Oriole (Icterus prosthemelas). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 21 January 2020).