views updated

Icteridae (New World blackbirds, orioles, cowbirds; class Aves, order Passeriformes) A diverse family of black, or black with brown, or orange, or red, or yellow birds, many of which have white wing markings. The bill is short and heavy to long and slender, the wings usually long and pointed, but some short and rounded, and the tail variable. Icteridae are arboreal or terrestrial, gregarious or solitary, and feed on fruit, insects, and small vertebrates. The cowbirds (five species of Molothrus) are brood parasites, except for M. badius (bay-winged cowbird), which is parasitized by M. rufoaxillaris (screaming cowbird). Icterid nests vary from open and cup-shaped to domed, and are built on the ground, or suspended in trees, or in tree cavities. The 24 species of Icterus (orioles and troupials) build nests that are globular with side openings of open cups suspended between branches. Some icterids are colonial breeders, and many are migratory. There are 22 genera, with about 93 species, found in N., Central, and S. America, and the W.Indies.