Icterus dominicensisHispaniolan oriole(Also: black-cowled oriole; greater Antillean oriole)

Geographic Range

Hispaniolan orioles (Icterus dominicensis) are endemic to the island of Hispaniola, which includes Haiti and The Dominican Republic. This oriole is also known to live on the surrounding islands of Gonâve, Tortue, Vache and Saona (Jaramillo and Burke, 1999)


The Hispaniolan oriole's natural habitats are primarily subtropical or tropical lowlands. Occasionally, they can be found in dry forests, mangrove forests, and plantations. They nest in either palm or banana plants and are not likely to be found in pines. They are found from sea level up to 1,100m. The Hispaniolan oriole is known to forage in Erythrina poeppigiana. (Garrido, et al., 2005; Latta, et al., 2010)

  • Range elevation
    sea level to 1,100 m
    to ft

Physical Description

Adult males and females are similar in color, which is typical of tropical orioles.The Hispaniolan oriole shows the most yellow compared to the Cuban oriole (Icterus melanopsis) and the Puerto Rican oriole (Icterus portoricensis), but not as much yellow as the Bahama oriole (Icterus northorpi). The Hispaniolan oriole has yellow shoulders, thighs, and rear while the rest of the oriole is black. For immature birds in their second year, the forehead is usually chestnut while the top of the head is more olive. Their wings are mostly black, and immature birds also have a yellow bottom and belly. The juveniles have olive green throats and the head is a reddish-brown. This reddish-brown color in juveniles is unique among the Greater Antillean orioles. Juveniles also have a yellow-green bottom and their wings are mostly brown usually with yellow tips. On average they are 20 to 22 cm long; males weigh 35 to 38 g while females weigh 33 to 40 g. (Hofmann, et al., 2008; Jaramillo and Burke, 1999; del Hoyo, et al., 1992)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    33 to 40 g
    1.16 to 1.41 oz
  • Range length
    20 to 22 cm
    7.87 to 8.66 in


Most orioles are thought to be socially monogamous. (Jaramillo and Burke, 1999)

The clutch size is usually 3 to 4 eggs that are white or a pale blue with reddish-brown spots. The breeding season is approximately March through June. (Garrido, et al., 2005; Jaramillo and Burke, 1999; del Hoyo, et al., 1992)

  • Breeding interval
    Breeding intervals are not known. Some orioles have more than one brood per year.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding season is from March through June.
  • Range eggs per season
    3 to 4
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    1 to 1 years
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    1 to 1 years

The Hispaniolan oriole tends to live in family groups, so there is parental investment from both sexes. This is common to other similar species such as the Bahama oriole. (Jaramillo and Burke, 1999; Latta, et al., 2010)

  • Parental Investment
  • male parental care
  • female parental care
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • protecting
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
    • protecting
  • pre-independence


No information is known about the lifespan.


The Hispaniolan oriole usually remains in family groups but can be observed in flocks. (Latta, et al., 2010)

Home Range

The home range size is not known. Other tropical orioles often have year-round territoriality. (Campbell, et al., 2016)

Communication and Perception

The Hispaniola oriole song is a series of high-pitched whistles that usually can only be heard after dawn. Their call is a sharp keek or check sound. Many may assume that only males sing, but research has suggested that in many tropical oriole species males and females are capable of producing song. More research is needed on the possibility of female song in this oriole and other Caribbean orioles. (Campbell, et al., 2016; Lee, 2011; Price, et al., 2009; del Hoyo, et al., 1992)

Food Habits

The diet of Hispaniolan orioles consists of insects, nectar, and fruit. (Garrido, et al., 2005; Latta, et al., 2010)


Shiny cowbird (Molothrus bonariensis) is a brood parasite that lays its own eggs in the orioles’ nests. Introduced species like cats, dogs, rats and pigs are also possible threats to this species. (Jaramillo and Burke, 1999; Latta, et al., 2010; del Hoyo, et al., 1992)

Ecosystem Roles

As mentioned earlier, the Shiny cowbird (Molothrus bonariensis) is a brood parasite that depends on the Hispaniolan oriole's nests for its own eggs. It is possible that since the Hispaniolan oriole eats fruit and nectar that it helps to disperse seeds. (Latta, et al., 2010)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds
  • pollinates
Species Used as Host
  • none known; palm trees often used for nesting
Mutualist Species
  • none known
Commensal/Parasitic Species

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Since the Hispaniolan oriole is an endemic species, it is likely a tourist attraction for bird watchers.

  • Positive Impacts
  • ecotourism
  • research and education

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Currently, there are not any known negative economic impacts of the Hispaniolan oriole, however, it is possible that they impact crops on the plantations that they inhabit. (Latta, et al., 2010)

Conservation Status

The Hispaniolan oriole is moderately widespread and persistent throughout its range. It is listed as "least concern" on IUCN Red List. The population may suffer decline due to brood parasitism and habitat loss. Habitat loss in Haiti due to deforestation is especially a huge threat. (del Hoyo, et al., 1992)

Other Comments

In his 1936 book “Birds of the West Indies”, ornithologist James Bond lumped the Hispaniolan (Icterus dominicensis), Bahama (Icterus northorpi), Cuban (Icterus melanopsis), and Puerto Rican (Icterus portoricensis) orioles all into one species. This whole species was referred to as "Icterus dominicensis". In 2010, each of these became classified as their own species due to differences in mitochondrial DNA and plumage differences. After going through all the species accounts of orioles listed in Jaramillo and Burke (1999), the majority of clade A orioles used palms for nesting. Clade A includes all the Caribbean orioles except the Jamaican oriole (Icterus leucopteryx). Considering this information in the context of the phylogenic tree of the orioles, these observations suggest that these species have been using palms for millions of years. (Jaramillo and Burke, 1999; Omland, et al., 1999; Price and Hayes, 2009; Sturge, et al., 2009)


Briana Yancy (author), University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Kevin Omland (editor), University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


an animal that mainly eats fruit


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

island endemic

animals that live only on an island or set of islands.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

male parental care

parental care is carried out by males


Having one mate at a time.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


an animal that mainly eats nectar from flowers


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.


uses touch to communicate


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


uses sight to communicate


Campbell, S., A. Morales-Perez, J. Malloy, O. Muellerklein, J. Kim, K. Odom, K. Omland. 2016. Documentation of female song in a newly recognized species, the Puerto Rican Oriole (Icterus portoricensis). Journal of Caribbean Ornithology, 29: 28–36.

Garrido, O., J. Wiley, A. Kirkconnell. 2005. Genus Icterus in the West Indies. Ornitologia Neotropical, 16: 449-470.

Hofmann, C., T. Cronin, K. Omland. 2008. Evolution of sexual dichromatism. 1. Convergent losses of elaborate female coloration in New World orioles (Icterus spp.). The Auk, 125: 778-789.

Jaramillo, A., P. Burke. 1999. New World Blackbirds. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Latta, S., C. Rimmer, A. Keith, J. Wiley, R. Herbert, K. McFarland, E. Fernandez. 2010. Birds of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. Accessed October 25, 2016 at https://books.google.com/books?id=yBV06QyxYqsC&pg=PA210&lpg=PA210&dq=hispaniolan+oriole&source=bl&ots=YCwQ3h4vmu&sig=HTcPiR12sC4wrkf0inlf9Plyaxc&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjmk52F0_bPAhXHGj4KHfzCBds4FBDoAQgmMAI#v=onepage&q=hispaniolan%20oriole&f=false.

Lee, V. 2011. "Vocalization Behavior of the endangered Bahama Oriole (Iceterus northropi): Ontogenetic, Sexual, Temporal, Duetting Pair and Geographic Variation" (On-line pdf). Accessed October 25, 2016 at http://scholarsrepository.llu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1036&context=etd.

Omland, K., S. Lanyon, S. Fritz. 1999. A Molecular Phylogeny of the New world Orioles (Icterus): The Importance of Dense Taxon Sampling. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 12: 224-239.

Price, J., S. Lanyon, K. Omland. 2009. Losses of female song with changes from tropical to temperate breeding in New World blackbirds. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 276: 1971-1980.

Price, M., W. Hayes. 2009. Conservation taxonomy of the Greater Antillean Oriole (Icterus dominicensis): diagnosable plumage variation among allopatric population supports species status. Journal of Caribbean Ornithology, 22: 19-25.

Sturge, R., F. Jacobsen, B. Rosensteel, R. Neale, K. Omland. 2009. Colonization of South America from Caribbean Islands Confirmed by Molecular Phylogeny with Increased Taxon Sampling. The Condor, 111: 575-579.

del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. Christie. 1992. Handbook of Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain: Lynx Edicions.