Photo: Brian E. Small/Vireo

Bell's Vireo

Vireo bellii

When it is glimpsed in low brushy thickets of the Midwest or Southwest, this bird looks totally nondescript. When it is heard, however, it is easy to recognize, singing a jumbled clinking song, as if it had a mouthful of marbles. The species has become less common in recent years in many parts of its range, partly because it is a frequent victim of cowbird parasitism; many pairs of Bell's Vireos succeed in raising only cowbirds, not their own young.
Conservation status Apparently holding steady in parts of Southwest. However, declining in the Midwest and especially in California, where it is now endangered. Habitat loss and cowbird parasitism are major threats.
Family Vireos
Habitat Willows, streamsides. Breeds in low dense growth, especially in second-growth scrub or brushy fields in Midwest, streamside thickets in Southwest, but also locally in chaparral, woodland edges, or scrub oaks. Winters in the tropics in dense low scrub, mostly near water.
When it is glimpsed in low brushy thickets of the Midwest or Southwest, this bird looks totally nondescript. When it is heard, however, it is easy to recognize, singing a jumbled clinking song, as if it had a mouthful of marbles. The species has become less common in recent years in many parts of its range, partly because it is a frequent victim of cowbird parasitism; many pairs of Bell's Vireos succeed in raising only cowbirds, not their own young.
Photo Gallery
  • adult, Texas
  • adult, Eastern
  • adult, Southwestern
Feeding Behavior

Usually forages in low brush, within 12' of ground, but occasionally will feed much higher. Searches for insects among foliage, sometimes hovering while picking items from leaves or twigs; occasionally flies out to catch insects in mid-air.


Eggs

3-5, usually 4. White, usually with dots of brown or black concentrated at larger end. Incubation is by both parents (but females do more), about 14 days. Young: Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 11-12 days after hatching, are fed by parents for at least another 3 weeks.


Young

Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 11-12 days after hatching, are fed by parents for at least another 3 weeks.

Diet

Mostly insects. In breeding season, feeds almost entirely on insects, especially large ones, including caterpillars, stink bugs, wasps, bees, and weevils, also many others. Eats some spiders, and a very few berries. Winter diet unknown.


Nesting

Male defends nesting territory with incessant singing. In courtship, male may chase female; members of pair often posture and display to each other during early stages of nest building. Nest site is in low shrub or sapling, usually 2-5' above the ground and placed in a fork of a horizontal twig. Nest (built by both sexes) is a small hanging cup, its rim firmly woven into fork; made of grass, weeds, plant fibers, leaves, and strips of bark, bound with spiderwebs. Inside may be padded with feathers, plant down, moss, then lined with fine grass. Spider egg cases often added to outside.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Migrates mostly at night. Arrives in Southwest in March, but does not reach northernmost nesting areas until May.

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Migration

Migrates mostly at night. Arrives in Southwest in March, but does not reach northernmost nesting areas until May.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Fast, warbled tweedle-deedle-dum? tweedle-deedle-dee! First phrase up, second phrase down.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Vireos Perching Birds

Bell's Vireo

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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