Icterus portoricensisPuerto Rican oriole

Geographic Range

Puerto Rican orioles are endemic to the island of Puerto Rico in the United States, and not found elsewhere. They are closely related to other species in the oriole complex that occupy different Caribbean islands. (Garrido, et al., 2005; Jaramillo and Burke, 1999)


Puerto Rican orioles are found in tropical and subtropical forests, including mangroves and edge habitats, and especially palm trees. They are often found in agricultural areas such as orchards, citrus groves, and coffee plantations. They are found from sea level up to 1000 m in elevation. (Garrido, et al., 2005; Jaramillo and Burke, 1999)

  • Range elevation
    1000 (high) m
    3280.84 (high) ft

Physical Description

Puerto Rican orioles are black in color, with the exception of a yellow pattern confined to the lower belly and shoulder. Other members of the species complex on different islands have more yellow, such as Hispaniolan orioles (Icterus dominicensis) and Bahama orioles (I. northropi). In contrast, Cuban orioles (I. melanopsis) have more black. There is very little sexual differentiation between males and females. For example, there is little to no difference in color saturation between the males and females. Juveniles are tawny colored often with an olive tint to their rump. Juveniles exhibit delayed plumage maturation in both sexes, which is likely the ancestral state for the genus Icterus. (Garrido, et al., 2005; Hofmann, et al., 2008; Jaramillo and Burke, 1999; Omland and Kondo, 2006)

They are similar in size to other oriole species within their clade. On average, males weigh 41.0 g and females are slightly smaller, weighing approximately 36.6 g. The average wingspan of males and females are 96.9 mm and 92.1 mm, respectively. (Garrido, et al., 2005; Hofmann, et al., 2008; Jaramillo and Burke, 1999)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • male larger
  • Average mass
    38.8 g
    1.37 oz
  • Average wingspan
    94.5 mm
    3.72 in


Most Icterus species are thought to be monogamous, establishing life-long bonds between males and females. (Price, et al., 2009)

Puerto Rican orioles breed primarily from February through July. It is likely that both males and females sing to attract mates, as do many species of tropical orioles. Males and females of closely related Bahama orioles perform duets, so Puerto Rican orioles may do so as well. (Garrido, et al., 2005; Lee, 2012; Price, et al., 2007)

Puerto Rican orioles lay about 3 eggs per clutch. Eggs are white with a bluish hue and light lavender-gray-brown speckles and spots. Nests of most species in this subgroup of orioles hang a few inches below branches or palm fronds. (Garrido, et al., 2005; Jaramillo and Burke, 1999)

  • Breeding interval
    Puerto Rican orioles breed seasonally.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding season is February through July.

Little is known about the level of parental involvement in raising young. Similar species such as Bahama orioles are often found in family groups after breeding, which indicates parental investment from both sexes. (Jaramillo and Burke, 1999)

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


There is no available information about the lifespan of this species.


Puerto Rican orioles are not shy, but are difficult to observe because they prefer to forage in dense vegetation. After breeding, adult Puerto Rican orioles and their young will remain together in a family group. (Jaramillo and Burke, 1999)

Home Range

Puerto Rican orioles are native to the island of Puerto Rico. There is no evidence that they migrate. (Jaramillo and Burke, 1999)

Communication and Perception

Puerto Rican orioles sing as a primary means of communication. Their song is comprised of clicks or “high pitched whistles” and has a frequency range between 3.6 and 5.3 kHz. They combine 15 to 27 different notes to make up their song. It is frequently assumed that only the males sing based on behavior of temperate-zone birds; however, both males and females of many tropical orioles sing. Thus, it is likely that both male and female Puerto Rican orioles sing. (Garrido, et al., 2005; Price, et al., 2007; Price, et al., 2009)

Food Habits

Puerto Rican orioles feed mostly on insects and on other small invertebrates. They are also known to feed on lizards, fruits, nuts, and grains. (Garrido, et al., 2005; Jaramillo and Burke, 1999)

  • Animal Foods
  • amphibians
  • reptiles
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit


There are no known predators of Puerto Rican orioles. (Jaramillo and Burke, 1999; Jaramillo and Burke, 1999)

Ecosystem Roles

Since the diet of Puerto Rican orioles includes fruit, they likely help disperse seeds throughout their habitat.

Coastal area nests are parasitized by shiny cowbirds (Molothrus bonariensis), which lay eggs in the nests of Puerto Rican orioles. (Jaramillo and Burke, 1999)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds
Commensal/Parasitic Species

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The Puerto Rican Oriole is one of 15 bird species endemic to Puerto Rico, which may generate ecotourism revenue. ("List of birds of Puerto Rico", 2012)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Fruit is an important part of the Puerto Rican oriole diet, so they may have detrimental effects on the orchards in which they are found.

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

Conservation Status

Scientists have not determined the size of the population, but they are considered fairly common to common on the island of Puerto Rico. The population is declining, but is not near vulnerable levels and Puerto Rican orioles are classified as "Least Concern" by the IUCN Red List. (Jaramillo and Burke, 1999)

Other Comments

Previously, I. portoricensis, along with I. northropi, I. melanopsis, and I. dominicensis, were all considered subspecies within Icterus dominicensis. This was documented in Birds of the West Indies in 1936 by ornithologist James Bond. In 2010, each of these was recognized as its own species by the American Ornithologists' Union, based on analysis of mitochondrial DNA, plumage, and song differences. Puerto Rican orioles are part of a subgroup of orioles that includes North American orchard orioles (Icterus spurrius) and hooded orioles (Icterus cucullatus). (Chesser, et al., 2010; Garrido, et al., 2005; Omland, et al., 1999; Sturge, et al., 2009)


Susanna Campbell (author), University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Kevin Omland (editor), University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Catherine Kent (editor), Special Projects.



living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

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 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.

oceanic islands

islands that are not part of continental shelf areas, they are not, and have never been, connected to a continental land mass, most typically these are volcanic islands.


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


Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

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


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


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


uses sight to communicate


2012. "List of birds of Puerto Rico" (On-line). Wikipedia. Accessed June 15, 2012 at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_birds_of_Puerto_Rico#Blackbirds.2C_Meadowlarks.2C_Cowbirds.2C_Grackles.2C_and_Orioles.

BirdLife International 2012., 2012. "Icterus portoricensis" (On-line). IUCN Red List. Accessed October 10, 2012 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/160032691/0.

Chesser, T., R. Banks, K. Barker, C. Cicero, J. Dunn, J. Kratter, I. Lovette, R. Rasmussen, J. Rising, D. Stotz, K. Winker. 2010. "Fifty-First Supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union Check-List of North American Birds" (On-line). The American Ornithologists' Union. Accessed June 15, 2012 at http://www.aou.org/checklist/suppl/AOU_checklist_suppl_51.pdf.

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.). Auk, 125: 778-789.

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

Lee, V. 2012. Vocalization Behavior of the Endangered Bahama Oriole ( Icterus northropi): Ontogenetic, Sexual, Temporal, Duetting Pair, and Geographic Variation.. ProQuest Digital Research Labratory: UMI Dissertation Publishing.

Omland, K., B. Kondo. 2006. S18-2 Phylogenetic studies of plumage evolution and speciation in New World orioles (Icterus). Current Zoology, 52(supl): 320-326.

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., N. Friedman, K. Omland. 2007. Song and plumage evolution in the New World orioles (Icterus) show similar lability and convergence in patterns. Evolution, 61: 850-863.

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

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.