Family New World Blackbirds (Icteridae)

Least Concern

Russet-backed Oropendola (Psarocolius angustifrons)


French: Cassique roussâtre German: Breithauben-Stirnvogel Spanish: Cacique dorsirrufo

Cassicus angustifrons


, 1824,

São Paulo de Olivença, south bank of upper River Solimões, west Amazonas, Brazil


Taxonomy complex and confusing; P. oleagineus hitherto treated as conspecific. Nominate race has blackish bill; the other five races, with yellow bill, have been treated as a distinct species “Yellow-billed Oropendola” P. alfredi, albeit accepting such an arrangement may be incorrect#R; indeed, DNA divergence between race alfredi and nominate is relatively small, and their songs are similar (a low-pitched rolling trill switching to longer notes rising in volume and pitch, then a steeply downslurred explosive whistle); intermediate specimens reported from E Ecuador. Race neglectus found not to associate with nominate in foothills of Colombian E Andes, the two behaving as separate species; song comprises 1–3 well-spaced introductory notes in crescendo with final explosive note consisting of a short rattling, then a melodious note. Song of race sincipitalis apparently unrecorded, but that of salmoni and atrocastaneus has well-spaced introductory notes in crescendo (as in P. oleagineus) but without a longer final note#R; these two also differ from other races by their dull mid- or dark grey vs yellowish head sides and throat to upper breast, and chestnut or chestnut-tinged grey vs olive-green midcrown to nape. Evident need for detailed integrative study of morphology, voice and genetics. Proposed race australis (described from Santa Cruz, in C Bolivia) supposedly darker than alfredi, but considered to fall within range of variation of latter and therefore synonymized with it. Six subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. a. neglectus (Chapman, 1914) – Sierra de Perijá (Colombia–Venezuela border); W Andes of Venezuela and E slope of E cordillera in Colombia (S to Caquetá).
  • P. a. salmoni (P. L. Sclater, 1883) – W & C Andes of Colombia (S to Nariño).
  • P. a. sincipitalis (Cabanis, 1873) – W slope of E Andes of Colombia (from Santander S to upper Magdalena Valley).
  • P. a. atrocastaneus (Cabanis, 1873) – W slope in Ecuador.
  • P. a. alfredi (Des Murs, 1856) – Yellow-billed Oropendola – E Andean slopes and foothills from SE Ecuador (Morona-Santiago) S to Peru and C Bolivia (Cochabamba and Santa Cruz).
  • P. a. angustifrons (Spix, 1824) – Black-billed Oropendola – low E Andean foothills from S Colombia (S from Meta and Vaupés) S to E Ecuador and NE Peru (Loreto and N Ucayali) and W Brazil (Amazonian lowlands E to lower R Purus).
  • Descriptive notes

    Male 44–48 cm and mean 407 g, female 34·5–38 cm and mean 219 g (nominate); ten males 250–470 g, seven females 174–232 g (alfredi). Nominate race has head olivaceous-... read more


    Male songs during bow displays shorter (0·7–1·7 seconds) and simpler than those of congeners, but... read more


    Nominate race occurs mostly in floodplain-forest (várzea) along “white-water... read more

    Food and feeding

    Almost omnivorous. Stomach contents of nominate race include wild fruits of Cecropia (of several species in várzea... read more


    SSeason Sept–Mar in lowland Colombia (nominate); nest-building starts Jun–Jul and eggs and chicks found in Aug–Dec in C Bolivia (... read more


    Apparently sedentary in lowlands; otherwise some altitudinal movement, with for example noticeable... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Generally common in lowlands; uncommon to locally common in Andes. Some Andean races may have declined in some parts of range, e.g.... read more

    Recommended citation

    Fraga, R. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Russet-backed Oropendola (Psarocolius angustifrons). 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 22 February 2020).