A flock of chestnut headed oropendolas, oriole relatives common to the Canal Zone of Panama, are establishing a colony in a bare-branched tree near our cabina on the hill. There are seven of them and they’ve just gotten started as of yesterday. The males posture and blurp while the girls do the hard work: gathering fibers to weave long-necked tree-top cradles in which they’ll rock their babies to sleep.
Every so often a male will interfere with the weaving session. He and arival female (update as of this morning: I’m still in research phase on this, but stay tuned) will interfere with a mating session- the two females will holler and joust, hook their feet together and spiral dramatically to earth.
A beat before hitting ground they’ll fly apart to rest, panting through open beaks, dwelling on thoughts of mortality. (Update: it seems to be a case of female/female competition- a second ‘helper’ female hovering nearby may be no more than a nest thief. The helicopter ride down, seen in this light, would be a hardcore game of chicken. Female fitness in a harem no doubt brings out some killer competition, and in this case, a five or six female-to-one male ratio might make things a tad competitive) And reproduction. And for her, a lot more weaving.