This section is from "The American Cyclopaedia", by George Ripley And Charles A. Dana. Also available from Amazon: The New American Cyclopędia. 16 volumes complete..
Troopial (Fr. Troupiale), a name given to several species of the icterinOe and agelainOe, subfamilies of American conirostral birds, in some respects resembling the starlings of the old world, and in others coming near the finches; they have the nine primaries of the finches, but the bill is larger, straight, the base without bristles, and the tip without a notch. The name is derived from their habit of associating in large troops. In the icterinOe the bill is generally longer than the head, straight and sharp-pointed; wings long and pointed, and tail usually wedge-shaped; toes moderate and formed for perching. The prevailing colors are yellow or orange and black; they are generally called orioles in North America, and a well known species has been described under Bal-timoee Bird; hang-nest is a name derived from their habit of suspending the nest from the extremity of slender branches. - The common troopial (icterus vulgaris, Daud.) is about 10 in. long, with a straight bill; back and abdomen yellow; head, neck all round, breast, and tail black; a white band on the wings; feathers of throat elongated and pointed; it is a native of northern South America and the West Indies, sometimes coming to the southern United States. They move in flocks, sometimes mingled with other species, and show a great partiality to the neighborhood of man; they are excellent fliers, and equally at home on the ground or in trees; they are loquacious at all seasons; their flesh is excellent.
There are several other species in Mexico, Texas, and Central America. The orchard troopial (I. spurius, Bonap.) very much resembles the Baltimore oriole in the pattern of its colors, the orange red of the latter being replaced by dark chestnut, the tail entirely black and more graduated, and the bill slenderer and more curved. - The only other genus of the icterinOe which can be mentioned here is cassicus (Cuv.), so called from cassis, a helmet, the bill rising on the forehead in a crescent shape; nostrils basal, naked, pierced in the substance of the bill; third and fourth quills longest, and tail long and graduated; tarsi and toes strongly scaled. There are about 20 species, peculiar to tropical America, living in the forests and also near human habitations, in vast troops; they eat fruits, berries, insects, and larvae. The nest is most ingeniously woven by both sexes, made of fibres and dried grasses, of a cylindrical or gourd-like form, and sometimes 3 ft. long; the lower part is hemispherical, the opening near the top, and the fabric suspended from the ends of slender twigs of high trees, out of the reach of monkeys and snakes; many nests are made on one tree, and sometimes those of different species together.
They are docile in captivity, and learn to whistle and to articulate words; they are generally black, contrasted with "bright yellow, especially toward the tail. - In the subfamily agelainOe the bill is stout, short, conical, nearly straight, and sharp-pointed; tarsi as long as the middle toe; toes long and slender, and claws long and curved. Some of the birds of this subfamily have been described under Blackbied, Bobolink, and Cow Bird, species respectively of the genera agelaius (Vieill.), dolichonyx (Swains.), and molothrus (Swains.).
Common Troopial (Icterus vulgaris).