Saint Lucia oriole (Icterus laudabilis)

Also known as: St Lucia oriole
GenusIcterus (1)
SizeHead-body length: 20 – 22 cm (2)

Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The Saint Lucia oriole is a member of the Icterid family, a diverse and successful group of birds comprising some of the most abundant bird species in the world. Birds in this group have a unique skull structure that allows the beak to open powerfully, enabling these birds to force open holes in fruit, bark and soil and exploit a wide range of food sources (3). The most obvious feature of the magnificent Saint Lucia oriole is the fabulously brilliant orange patches on the bend of the wing, belly and underside of the tail that contrast starkly with the predominantly black plumage. The male and female are very much alike, although the orange patches are slightly paler and yellower on the female, but juveniles are largely green, with black around the neck (2).

The Saint Lucia oriole is endemic to the island of Saint Lucia in the Caribbean (4).

The Saint Lucia oriole is widespread across Saint Lucia, from the coastal lowlands to mountain rainforests. It is also found in semi-arid areas, such as dry scrub, and at the edge of banana plantations, up to 700 metres above sea level (2) (4).  

Owing to a remarkable range of foraging adaptations and a high degree of intelligence, the Icterid family has become one of the most successful bird groups, with some species having populations in the tens of millions. This adaptability has allowed many species to occupy a range of habitats and exploit a variety of food sources (3). 

Typical of many orioles, the Saint Lucia oriole constructs an elaborate, neatly woven, basket-shaped nest that is suspended from a tree branch. The female is responsible for nest construction and incubating the clutch of three spotted eggs (2) (3). The male does not feed the female during nesting, but may help in provisioning the young (3).

As the Saint Lucia oriole is found on a single island, with a range of no more than 620 square kilometers, and has a very small population size of around 1,000, it is extremely vulnerable to any destructive activities within its range. Indeed, the Saint Lucia oriole has become notably less abundant since the first surveys of the species were conducted, with the likely agents of this decline being habitat loss, pesticide use and parasitism by the shiny cowbird (Molothrus bonariensis) (4). Many of Saint Lucia’s forests are being encroached upon by agriculture, with vast areas converted to banana and coconut plantations, and other less favourable habitats, although rainforest habitat is relatively well protected (4) (5). This has also had the adverse affect of increasing the population of the shiny cowbird, as this species favours disturbed, cleared areas, and as many as three quarters of Saint Lucia oriole nests may be parasitised by this species (4) (6). Furthermore, like all other island endemics in the Caribbean, the Saint Lucia oriole is vulnerable to destructive, chance natural events, such as hurricanes, which have the potential to destroy much of the species’ population and habitat within a very short space of time (7).

At present, the Saint Lucia oriole population is thought to be relatively stable and not under immediate threat of extinction (4). It is also found in several protected areas, including the Government Forest Reserve (4) (7). Nevertheless, the Saint Lucia oriole would benefit from further studies into the threats to the species (4).

For further information on the Saint Lucia oriole, see:

For more information on the conservation of Saint Lucia, see:

Authenticated (23/06/2010) by Matthew Morton, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, c/o - Forestry Department, Ministry of Agriculture, Castries, Saint Lucia, West Indies.

  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2010)
  2. Bond, J. (1993) Birds of the West Indies. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, Massachusetts.
  3. Perrins, C. (2009) The Encyclopedia of Birds. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  4. BirdLife International (May, 2010)
  5. BirdLife International EBA Factsheet (May, 2010)
  6. Toussaint, J.L. and Morton, M. (2009) The Status and Conservation of Saint Lucia’s Forest Birds: Technical Report No. 12 to the National Forest Demarcation and Bio-physical Resource Inventory Project. FGG International Ltd, Helsinki, Finland.
  7. BirdLife International IBA Factsheet (May, 2010)