This post is also available in: Dutch.
The local Yellow Oriole (Icterus nigrogularis curasoensis) is on my mental list of really special species. Not only because it is endemic to the ABC Islands, but also because of the ingenious way it constructs its nests. Can you imagine having to weave a basket with only your feet and mouth? These beautiful birds can do that, and they do it in a superb way.
These birds are easily spotted, not only because of their bright yellow plumage, but also of the peculiar sounds they produce. On Bonaire and Curaçao the species is known as Trupial kachó, which loosely translates into dog-like Trupial. If you listen carefully to part of their vocalizations, with some imagination you’ll recognize a barking puppy or Chihuahua. The ‘barking Trupial’ of the B and C Islands has a much cuter name on Aruba, though: Gonzalito!
Back to those nests. They construct hanging nests, which are a perfect way of safeguarding their offspring. The narrow entrance at the top makes it almost impenetrable to nasty scoundrels, like the Venezuelan Troupial (Icterus icterus), eager to steal the eggs or hatchlings. In general, the same nest location will be used over and over, but they make sure to remodel or even rebuild everything. Breeding in stale, secondhand nests is unacceptable! The nest location is chosen carefully, and preferably overhanging some sort of less inviting substrate. All strategies in order for hunters to be kept at bay. The best modern day location is right above a road, of course.
But the animals didn’t stop at adapting themselves to modern day conveniences with only the choice of nest locations. They figured out, that humans create superior nest building materials as well. Bits of nylon fishing line and strands from synthetic rope are easy to work with, and will hold up better than the old-fashioned organic stuff they had to use before. Hence, look carefully at those nests if you encounter them. The feats of high-tech engineers are easily distinguishable from the mere grey mass of Yellow Oriole society.
On a more serious note: often a feeling of sadness creeps up on me, noting that wildlife is recycling the garbage that we carelessly scatter around us. In case of the Yellow Orioles it seems to be harmless or maybe even somewhat beneficial. But lots of species suffer because of our ‘failures in design’, which is something I already mentioned before (see this post).