Bird of the Week, March 23, 2012
Bahama Oriole


Bahama Oriole by D. Belasco


The Bahama Oriole was recently given full species status by biologists, having previously been regarded as a sub-species of the Greater Antillean Oriole. This taxonomic split brought to light the critical situation faced by this species, since fewer than 300 individuals are thought to exist.

 

The Bahama Oriole’s preferred breeding sites are tall coconut palms, often planted as part of human settlements. As settlers brought these palms to new communities, the orioles followed closely behind and thrived on this relationship.

 

Unfortunately, on North Andros Island, where the largest population of Bahama Orioles remains, coconut palms have been nearly wiped out by Lethal Yellowing disease, dramatically reducing suitable nesting sites.  Luckily the disease has not yet crossed to South Andros Island or Mangrove Cay.

 

Other threats to this species include loss of suitable forest  for non-breeding habitat to small-scale agriculture, and the arrival of Shiny Cowbirds, which parasitize oriole nests.

 

Possible solutions include working with local communities to begin a cowbird trapping program, programs to educate people about the importance of broadleaf coppice forest, and nest and population monitoring; as well as programs to inoculate palms to help prevent the spread of the disease, and captive breeding of birds for subsequent reintroduction to Abaco.



Photo by D. Belasco; Range Map, ABC