These impressive birds can imitate the sounds of different species of animals, including the squirrel monkeys that live around Uakari Lodge!
One of the animals that hardly goes unnoticed during the stay at Uakari Lodge is the Yellow-rumped cacique (Cacicus cela). Whether for the multiple vocalizations, for the different nest, for the flocks returning to their communal perches at dusk or for their physical appearance, the fact is that these fantastic birds will somehow attract your attention!
The Yellow-rumped caciques, or xexéus as they are popularly known in some regions in Brazil, are birds of the family Icteridae, which occurs in the Americas. Males are on average 28 centimeters and are larger than females, which normally measure 24 cm, but both have black and yellow plumage (in a very strong shade), and also have a very clear and prominent beak and eyes. They are social birds and polygamous, that is, a male copulates with several females (the amount will depend on the male’s dominance level in the flock).
They live in large colonies that can vary from 2 to 250 nests spread over one or two trees. It is interesting to observe during the tours the amount of active nests during a reproductive season, on an average I would say that we see activity in about 20 to 40 nests at a time. Oh, and it’s not just any nest … these birds are among the weavers of the New World, which means that the females do an incredible craft job, weaving nests of twigs, grass and palm fibers; the larger ones will look like a bag hanging from the branches of large trees. This reproductive configuration provides a high degree of protection against predation, since a large group of individuals becomes less susceptible, some tree mammals could break branches when trying to prey on eggs, toucans have difficulty accessing eggs in the pouches because of their large beaks and yet the nests are built close to wasps, which can intimidate different predators.
The vocalizations are also impressive, these birds can imitate more than 20 species of animals, mainly other birds such as toucans, parakeets, hawks, owls and even mammals such as squirrel monkeys. In addition, it has its own songs, which together with the vast repertoire of imitations varies in each colony, being considered a dialect. This specific set of sounds acts as a “social password” for group recognition and in competitions to establish dominance among males (along with the size of the group). And when I say competitions I mean literally! The males make a singing contest where one starts a vocalization of that group’s repertoire and then the other has to continue, the one who does not know how to complete loses.
Some songs can be accompanied by curious exhibitions, which are not a dance as in the birds of paradise, but are very cool to watch! My favorite Japanese song / display is what can be described as Bowing display or Horizontal display, because in addition to the shrill sound the bird (usually male in cut) lowers the body and the head, bristles the feathers of the neck and back, quickly flapping the wings. We humans often see ourselves as a superior species, with our dialects and cultural sounds passed down from generation to generation, the ability to create singing competitions or dance moves, skills to build durable and beautiful structures … funny to think how we share so much with nature and we often don’t even realize it.
. Text e images: Cynthia Lebrão