Campo Troupial - Icterus jamacaii
List of Birds

Site contents:
in Itapajé, Ceará,
100 km from Fortaleza.

The avifauna is listed in
Birds of NE Brazil.
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Threatened species
Many species of NE Brazil are threatened by extinction. Our reserve helps to protect some of them:
Birds of NE Brazil
in Caatinga, Cerrado,
and other habitats
Campo Troupial
Icterus jamacaii
Family: Icteridae

Icterus jamacaii is monotypic, and restricted to NE Brazil. Formerly considered conspecific with Icterus croconotus, see e.g. Sick 1997. RPPN Mãe-da-lua.

Synonyms: Oriolus jamacaiiGMELIN 1788;   

Campo Troupial (Icterus jamacaii)
07/11/2010; Bank of Rio Parnaíba, Piauí/Maranhão, close to Floriano. 300 mm f2.8 lens.

Figure 1. The famed ornithologist Helmut Sick considered Icterus jamacaii one of the most beautiful species of the american avifauna, and also one of its most talented singers (Sick 1997, p. 796).

Habitat: Jaramillo and Burke 1999 describe the Campo Troupial as a species of xeric habitats (p. 196). In contrast to this, I have seen the Campo Troupial mainly in gallery vegetation of rivers; in gardens or agricultural areas with fruit trees; and in semi-open areas in humid mountains. The bird in figures 1 and 2, for example, was photographed at the bank of Rio Parnaíba (Piauí/Maranhão). I did not yet encounter Icterus jamacaii in a truely xeric habitat, like the arboreal Caatinga or the dry tropical forest of Mãe-da-lua reserve.

Nesting: Icterus jamacaii is reportedly a nest pirate, who does not build its own nest, but occupies those of other species (Sick 1997, Jaramillo and Burke 1999). At least one instance of nest building has been reported as well, though (Anita Studer, cited in Sick 1997, p. 790). When I observed the bird on the photo, it was clearly fixing up a nest (see also fig. 2), but I cannot tell for sure whether the latter had previously been built by another species. Part of it can be seen in the photo (right). Maybe, it was originally owned by a furnarid, or by Pitangus sulphuratus.

Local migrations: In the Caatinga, most rivers have no running water (or no water at all) during the dry period, approximately from June to December. The Campo Troupials that stay in the gallery vegetation of these rivers during the wet season, leave when the dry season begins, and only come back about half a year (?) later, when the rains start again. I am not certain whether the birds of humid mountains or Cerrado also migrate.

Conservation: In parts of the Northeast, the Campo Troupial is still a rather common species, and I often see it during my birding trips around Floriano in Piauí. But, in many other areas, it has become rare, or locally extinct.

For example, my neighbours at Mãe-da-lua reserve told me that 10-15 years ago, the Campo Troupial was still common in the gallery vegetation of Rio Caxitoré (a river about 2 km from the reserve). But during the last years, these birds have all but disappeared from the river. I heard of two reasons for the rapid local decline: trapping for comercial purposes, and vandalism by kids, who used the Troupials as targets during their frequent sling shooting exercises.

What happened here, also happens in countless other places. The Campo Troupial is not yet threatened by extinction, but it is certainly moving fast in that direction.

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Campo Troupial (Icterus jamacaii)
07/11/2010; Bank of Rio Parnaíba, close to Floriano. Piauí/Maranhão, Brazil. 300 mm f2.8 lens.

Figure 2. Same Campo Troupial as on photo above, carrying nest building material.

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Campo Troupial (Icterus jamacaii)
12/01/2010; Garden of Hotel "Alto da Serra" in Guaramiranga, Ceará, Brazil. 300 mm f2.8 lens.

Figure 3. Occasionally, the Campo Troupial can be seen flying in a strange way, slowly, with head and tail bent downwards, as on the photo. This must be some sort of display behaviour (and if I remember correctly, the birds sometimes sing during the presentation).

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