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Oriolus larvatus (Black-headed oriole) 

Swartkopwielewaal [Afrikaans]; Umkro, Umqokolo [Xhosa]; umBhicongo, umQoqongo [Zulu]; Nkulivere (generic term for oriole) [Kwangali]; Gotowa [Shona]; Phamahumu, Phamanyarhi [Tsonga]; Maskerwielewaal [Dutch]; Loriot masqué [French]; Maskenpirol [German]; Papa-figos-de-cabeça-preta [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes > Family: Oriolidae

Oriolus larvatus (Black-headed oriole)

Black-headed oriole. [photo Jim Scarff ©]

Top right: Black-headed oriole. [photo Andries Steenkamp ©]

Bottom right: Black-headed oriole. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

The Black-headed oriole is common and widespread, occuring throughout sub-Saharan Africa, from East Africa to southern Africa. It is quite adaptable, occupying a variety of habitats, including savanna woodland, parks, farmland and gardens. It eats a variety of invertebrates, fruit and seeds, often foraging in mixed species flocks in the tree canopy. The nest is deep cup of woven old-man's beard strands, moss and grass, place between stems of a fork in a slender tree branch.

Distribution and habitat

Common in many areas of sub-Saharan Africa, from East Africa to southern Africa. Here it occurs throughout Mozambique, Botswana, Limpopo Province, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, with smaller populations in extreme nothern Namibia, Western Cape and the North-west Province. It  is quite adaptable, occupying a variety of habitats, including Savanna woodland, miombo (Brachystegiai) woodland, coastal forest, parks, gardens, farmland with scattered trees and alien plantations.

Distribution of Black-headed oriole in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  


It has been recorded as prey of the following bird species:


Eats a range of invertebrates, fruit and seeds, often foraging in mixed species flocks in the tree canopy. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Invertebrates
    • Apis mellifera (Honey-bee)
    • Lepidoptera (caterpillars)
      • Bombycomorpha bifasciata (Barred eggarlet)
      • Anadasia punctifascia (Chesnut eggarlet)
      • Imbrasia belina (Mopane emperor moth)
    • Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies)
    • termite alates
  • Plants
    • Fruit
      • Ficus (figs)
      • Olea europaea (African olive)
      • Coddia rudis (Small bone-apple)
    • Nectar
      • Erythrina latissima (Broad-leaved coral-tree)
      • Greyvillea (alien Silky oak)
      • Aloe
    • Seeds of Brachychiton acerfolia (Australian flame tree)


  • The nest is a deep cup made of strands of old-man's beard lichen (Usnea), moss, tendrils and grass woven together. It is usually placed between the stems of a fork in a horizontal branch, often far from the main tree trunk, usually 6-9 metres above ground.
Oriolus larvatus (Black-headed oriole)   

Black-headed oriole in its nest, Sericea farm, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

  • Egg-laying season is from September-February, peaking from September-December.
  • It lays 2-3 eggs, which are incubated for roughly 14-16 days.
  • The chicks are fed a variety of food items, including bleached rings of millipede exoskeletons, eventually leaving the nest after about 14-18 days.


Not threatened.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.