Altamira Oriole

Icterus gularis
Range Map

We once knew the Altamira Oriole as the Lichtenstein’s Oriole. Though widespread on the Mexican Gulf Coast and northern Central America, these large orioles have recently (since 1939) established territory in southern Texas. Today, south Texas is to only location north of the border with Mexico where we find them.

Though their appearance is like the smaller Hooded Oriole, DNA analysis has shown the two are not closely related. No other oriole is larger than this bird, and they do not migrate, so where we find them, they stay all year. Unlike most of their oriole relatives, male and female birds look the same.

We believe the female builds the nest. They are huge elongated woven affairs that are over two feet long. Sometimes they will build a nest, but not use it. Instead, they find another site and build again.

Science recognises six subspecies of Altamira Oriole:

  • I. g. tamaulipensis lives in south Texas eastern Mexico.
  • I. g. yucatanensis lives in Yucatan Peninsula, Cozumel, and Belize.
  • I. g. flavescens lives on the coast of Guerrero (Mexico).
  • I. g. gularis lives in southern Mexico and northern Central America.
  • I. g. troglodytes lives on the Pacific coast of southern Mexico and northwestern Central America.
  • I. g. gigas lives in Central America.

I met my first Altamira Orioles in the spring of 2020 at Laguna Atascosa NWR (Texas). But it was in Mission Texas at Bentsen Rio Grande State Park and the nearby National Butterfly Center in 2021, that I had my best encounters with these orioles.

21 Photos

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