Photo: Doug Wechslerr/Vireo

Red-eyed Vireo

Vireo olivaceus

One of the most numerous summer birds in eastern woods. It is not the most often seen, because it tends to stay out of sight in the leafy treetops, searching methodically among the foliage for insects. However, its song -- a series of short, monotonous phrases, as if it were endlessly asking and answering the same question -- can be heard constantly during the nesting season, even on hot summer afternoons.
Conservation status Undoubtedly declined historically with clearing of eastern forest, but current population seems stable. Could be affected by cutting of forest on wintering grounds in South America.
Family Vireos
Habitat Woodlands, shade trees, groves. Breeds in deciduous and mixed forest, occasionally in conifers. Also well wooded suburbs, orchards, parks. Prefers open woods with undergrowth of saplings, clearings or edges of burns, areas along streams in solid forest, or prairie groves. Winters in lowland tropical forest in South America.
One of the most numerous summer birds in eastern woods. It is not the most often seen, because it tends to stay out of sight in the leafy treetops, searching methodically among the foliage for insects. However, its song -- a series of short, monotonous phrases, as if it were endlessly asking and answering the same question -- can be heard constantly during the nesting season, even on hot summer afternoons.
Photo Gallery
  • adult
  • adult
  • adult
Feeding Behavior

Forages in trees by picking insects from foliage and from undersides of leaves and flowers, often while hovering momentarily.


Eggs

4, sometimes 3-5. White with brown or black spots near large end. Incubation is by female only, 11-14 days. Frequently parasitized by cowbirds; rarely deters cowbirds by burying their eggs under a second floor of nest. Young: Nestlings are fed by both parents. Young leave the nest 10-12 days after hatching.


Young

Nestlings are fed by both parents. Young leave the nest 10-12 days after hatching.

Diet

Mostly insects; also berries. In summer feeds mainly on insects, including caterpillars, moths, beetles, wasps, bees, ants, bugs, flies, walkingsticks, cicadas, treehoppers, scale insects; also some snails and spiders. Also eats many berries, especially in late summer, including those of Virginia creeper, sumac, elderberry, blackberry, dogwood, many other. In winter in the tropics, may feed heavily on berries and small fruit.


Nesting

Male sings persistently throughout the day during the breeding season. In courtship, male displays to female with feathers sleeked down, swaying body and head from side to side; both birds then vibrate wings simultaneously. Nest: Placed usually 5-30' above the ground, sometimes 2-60' up, in deciduous shrub or sapling. Nest (built by female) is a compact, dainty cup, with its rim woven onto a horizontal forked twig. Made of strips of bark, grass stems, weeds, rootlets, spiderwebs, and cocoons.

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

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

Migration

Migrates mostly at night. Peak migration periods in most areas are May and September. Those breeding in Northwest apparently move east in fall before turning south.

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Migration

Migrates mostly at night. Peak migration periods in most areas are May and September. Those breeding in Northwest apparently move east in fall before turning south.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A series of short, musical, robin-like phrases endlessly repeated; like that of Blue-headed Vireo but faster and not so musical.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

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