Family New World Blackbirds (Icteridae)

Least Concern

Russet-backed Oropendola (Psarocolius angustifrons)


Taxonomy

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

Cassicus angustifrons

Spix

, 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

    Voice

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

    Habitat

    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

    Breeding

    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

    Movements

    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. (2019). 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 https://www.hbw.com/node/62237 on 7 December 2019).