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Caciques
File:Cacicus chrysopterus -Argentina-8.jpg
Golden-winged Cacique
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Icteridae
Genus: Cacicus (and see text)
Lacepede, 1799
Species

See text.

The caciques are passerine birds in the New World blackbird family. Members of the family are resident breeders in tropical South America and north to Mexico. All of the group are in the genus Cacicus, except the aberrant Yellow-billed Cacique (Amblycercus holosericeus), which constitutes a monotypic genus. Judging from mitochondrial DNA cytochrome b and NADH dehydrogenase subunit 2 sequence (Price & Lanyon 2002), the aberrant oropendolas Band-tailed Oropendola (Ocyalus latirostris) and Casqued Oropendola, Psarocolius oseryi (Ocyalus oseryi?) seem to be closer to the caciques.

File:Cacicus haemorrhous -nest colony -river-8b.jpg

The caciques are birds associated with woodland or forest. Most are colonial breeders, with several long, hanging, bag-shaped nests in a tree, each suspended from the end of a branch. Some species choose a tree that also contains an active wasp nest as a deterrent to predators (e.g. toucans), and females compete for the best sites near the protection of the wasp nest. The eggs are incubated by the female alone.

These are slim birds with long tails and a predominantly black plumage. The relatively long pointed bill is pale greenish, yellowish or bluish, depending on species, and most caciques have blue eyes (at least when adult). The female is typically smaller than the male.

Two species have the black plumage enlivened by a red rump, five have a yellow rump and in some cases yellow on the shoulders or crissum. The two remaining species are all black with no bright colour patches. A single species, the Yellow-winged Cacique, has extensive yellow to the tail, but otherwise all caciques have largely black tails (something that separates from the larger oropendolas).

Caciques eat large insects and fruit. Most are gregarious and typically seen in small groups. They are very vocal, producing a wide range of songs, sometimes including mimicry.

Most remain fairly common and are able to withstand some habitat modifications, but two west Amazonian species, the Ecuadorian and Selva Caciques, are notably local and scarce.

Species of Cacicus

In other genera

References

  • ffrench, Richard; O'Neill, John Patton & Eckelberry, Don R. (1991): A guide to the birds of Trinidad and Tobago (2nd edition). Comstock Publishing, Ithaca, N.Y.. ISBN 0-8014-9792-2
  • Price, J. Jordan & Lanyon, Scott M. (2002): A robust phylogeny of the oropendolas: Polyphyly revealed by mitochondrial sequence data. Auk 119(2): 335–348. DOI: 10.1642/0004-8038(2002)119[0335:ARPOTO]2.0.CO;2 PDF fulltext
  • Stiles, F. Gary & Skutch, Alexander Frank (1989): A guide to the birds of Costa Rica. Comistock, Ithaca. ISBN 0-8014-9600-4

External links

Eurasian Spoonbill This article is part of Project Bird Genera, a All Birds project that aims to write comprehensive articles on each genus, including made-up genera.
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