The national bird of Venezuela, the Venezuelan troupial is the largest troupial species and was once lumped into a single species with the orange-backed troupial and campo troupial. Today, each bird is recognized as a beautiful and distinct member of the Icteridae family. This detailed fact sheet is a great introduction to birds that look very similar to more familiar orioles and are amazing tropical species to see.
- Scientific Name: Icterus icterus
- Common Name: Venezuelan Troupial, Turpial, Troupial, Northern Troupial, Common Troupial
- Lifespan: Unknown
- Size: 9 inches
- Weight: 2-2.3 ounces
- Wingspan: 12-14 inches
- Conservation Status: Least concern
Venezuelan Troupial Identification
At first glance, the Venezuelan troupial looks like an oriole, and in fact they are closely related. These birds, however, have distinctive traits that help set them apart, and birders who recognize their unique field marks will have no trouble identifying Venezuelan troupials. While many orioles have solidly colored bills, the thick, elongated, triangular bill of the Venezuelan troupial has a blue-gray base on the lower mandible. The wedge-shaped tail and bulky build are part of the bird's overall jizz, and genders are similar though males are slightly larger than females.
The head is covered with a black hood, and the face shows a blue-gray eye ring of bare skin that extends to a sharp point behind the eye. The nape and upper mantle are bright orange, creating a full orange collar around the neck that contrasts with the black back. The wings are black with a large white patch, and the rump is orange. The black hood extends down onto the breast, forming a jagged, zig-zag line where it contrasts with the orange underparts. The undertail coverts are paler yellow-orange. The eyes are pale, and the legs and feet are gray-black.
Juveniles have similar markings but are paler, even yellowish, with a brown wash over the black parts of their plumage. The eye skin of young birds is also duller.
These birds have a whistling, warbling song with two to three notes or phrases that may be repeated several times in a close sequence. They can be loud, particularly in areas where several troupials are singing to defend their territory.
Venezuelan Troupial Habitat and Distribution
These tropical birds prefer woodland habitats with lush, dense vegetation, including scrub areas and overgrown grasslands as well as fruit plantations. Venezuelan troupials adapt well to fragmented habitats and forest edges. They can be seen up to 1,600 feet in elevation, but rarely venture any higher in altitude. These birds are found in South America from northeastern Colombia through northern Venezuela, as well as on larger Caribbean islands, including Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire, Antigua, Grenada, and Dominica. Venezuelan troupials have also been introduced to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, both places where they thrive.
These birds do not migrate, but may occasionally wander as the abundance of food shifts in different areas. In the Caribbean, Venezuelan troupials may occasionally be blown off course by hurricanes and other severe storms, appearing in unexpected areas.
Venezuelan troupials are generally solitary or may be found in pairs, though they do join in small family groups after the breeding season. They can be aggressively territorial, particularly when nesting, and will vigorously chase intruders away from their nests. When foraging, they often stay on the ground seeking out fallen fruit, and when they sing, they perch in a high, visible spot.
Diet and Feeding
These are omnivorous birds that happily feast on abundant and convenient foods, including insects, fruit, nectar, berries, and seeds. They will also eat eggs and young nestlings if the opportunity arises, and may sip from nectar feeders.
These troupials are monogamous and are nest pirates that usurp nests from different birds rather than building their own. In some cases, they will use otherwise empty nests, but troupials will also chase away other birds from an active nesting area. They may be found in the nests of oropendolas, caciques, kiskadees, thornbirds, or similar species, but they adapt each nest to their own needs by adding lining or enlarging the entrance.
Eggs and Young
Venezuelan troupial eggs are pale whitish-pink with dark brown, black, or gray spotting concentrated at the larger end. There are three eggs in a typical brood, and the female parent incubates the eggs for 15-16 days. After the altricial chicks hatch, both parents feed the youngsters for an additional 21-23 days, until the juvenile birds are able to leave the nest and begin foraging independently.
A mated pair of Venezuelan troupials may raise between two and three broods per year, with multiple broods more likely in areas where these birds have been parasitized by shiny cowbirds.
Venezuelan Troupial Conservation
Because these birds are a source of national pride and patriotism in Venezuela, they are heavily protected in that country and are often a subject of avitourism. In some areas, however, these birds may be poached for the pet trade, which could be a threat to local populations. Overall, these birds are not considered threatened or endangered.
Tips for Backyard Birders
These birds readily visit bird-friendly yards, gardens, and orchards in their range. Backyard birders can attract troupials by planting appropriate berry bushes or fruit trees to serve as food sources, and leaving windfall fruit in place for the birds to feed. Mango, soursop, papaya, and date trees are particular favorites of Venezuelan troupials, and they may also visit large nectar feeders with sturdy perches.
How to Find This Bird
Because of these birds' bold coloration and even bolder personalities, they aren't difficult to see if birders visit suitable habitats within their range. Areas with wild or cultivated fruit trees are especially likely to host a large number of Venezuelan troupials. Birders who aren't able to visit this bird's native range may be able to see these birds in captivity, as they are popular guests at zoos and aviaries.
Venezuelan Troupials in Culture
This bold bird is an official national symbol of Venezuela, not only because of its bright coloration and widespread range, but also to help highlight the incredible bird diversity in the country. More than 1,300 birds have been recorded in Venezuela, and it is a popular destination for birding tours.
Explore More Species in This Family
The Venezuelan troupial may be familiar in Venezuela and adjacent regions, but birders who don't have experience birding in South America may be more familiar with different orioles, including:
Taking steps to attract orioles can help birders get even more familiar with the Venezuelan troupial's relatives.
Carter, Corey. Icterus Icterus. Animal Diversity Web, University of Michigan
Icterus Icterus. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, 2018, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T22735310A132036720.en
Venezuelan Troupial. eBird.org.
Odom, Karan J et al. Typical Males and Unconventional Females: Songs and Singing Behaviors of a Tropical, Duetting Oriole in the Breeding and Non-breeding Season. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 2016. doi:10.3389/fevo.2016.00014
Venezuela. Data Zone, Birdlife International.