Bahama Oriole Icterus northropi
Version: 2.0 — Published July 16, 2020
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Conservation and Management
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The Bahama Oriole is currently listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN (1). It is among the rarest birds in the Bahamas and is in danger of extinction if the population declines further. There are a variety of factors that threaten this species including brood parasitism by Shiny Cowbird (Molothrus bonariensis), death of coconut trees due to the introduction of lethal yellowing disease, and predation by introduced mammals. Although the potential impacts of climate change have not been studied in detail, the Bahama Oriole is certainly highly vulnerable given its small population size (27, 2, 3, 1). For example, an increase in the frequency of tropical storms like Hurricane Dorian, which devastated the Bahamas in summer 2019, could threaten the Bahama Oriole and other native biota. Recent hurricanes, including Irma, Matthew, and Dorian, did not seem to have major impacts on the Bahama Oriole, although the storm surge from Hurricane Matthew did kill hundreds of hectares of native pine forest due to saltwater inundation.
Effects of Human Activity
Human development has eliminated vital coppice and pine forest habitats for this and other native species in the Bahamas. Although the Bahama Oriole appears to adapt to living around human settlements, there are no comparative studies of breeding success for individuals that nest near settlements and those that nest in native habitats. The introduction by humans of lethal yellowing disease has caused the death of introduced coconut palms used as nest trees in developed areas (28), although effects on the Bahama Oriole have not been quantified.
Though human activity has threatened the Bahama Oriole, it is possible to improve conditions for this species through population monitoring of the Shiny Cowbird (Molothrus bonariensis) (an invasive brood parasite), and through protection of native habitats (3, 28). Conservation of the pine forest is needed to ensure long-term survival as the majority of the population likely breeds in pine forest. Loss of pine forest due to logging and residential development along with forest loss due to hurricanes and sea-level rise could seriously threaten the Bahama Oriole population (4).