Olivia Ocelot’s Best Friend Penelope Oropendola

By Clearly AmbiguousBy Anne Crary JantzThe Oropendola bird is so amazing. Not only do they build incredible nests that look like long hanging gourds, but the male Oropendola also has a distinctive mating performance that is so funny and amusing. I’m attaching a Youtube video by Alexander Grimwade that shows it so well.

The name Oropendola roughly translated is Golden Pendulum, and that is what the bird looks like when it’s swinging around on a branch.

I chose Penelope Oropendola and her friends’ problem with the Cowbird for the main conflict in this first book, because it is so interesting, and it gave me a platform for Olivia Ocelot’s fortes, conflict resolution and community building.

I’ll be doing a post on Cowbirds soon, but the main gist of their story is that they lay their eggs in other birds’ nests and then leave them for the other birds to hatch and raise. I’ll tell you more about their motivation in their chapter. Needless to say, this annoys the crap out of the other birds. (As I write this, I can see a cousin of Penelope’s, a beautiful, lustrous blackbird strutting across my lawn. Ah Michigan in June – so many beautiful birds!)

Anyhow, according to Wikipedia “The oropendolas comprise two or three genera of South and Central American passerine birds in the Icteridae New World blackbird family.

All the oropendolas are large birds with pointed bills, and long tails which are always at least partially bright yellow. Males are usually larger than females.

The plumage is typically chestnut, dark brown or black, although the Green oropendola and olive oropendola have, as their names imply, an olive coloration to the head, breast and upper back. The legs are dark, but the bill is usually a strikingly contrasting feature, either pale yellow, or red-tipped with a green or black base. In several species there is also a blue or pink bare cheek patch.

Oropendolas are birds associated with forests or, for a few species, more open woodland. They are colonial breeders, with several long woven basket nests in a tree, each hanging from the end of a branch.

These gregarious birds eat large insects and fruit. They are very vocal, producing a wide range of songs and calls, sometimes including mimicry.”

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