Adult male. Photo: cuatrok77/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)

Black-capped Vireo

Vireo atricapilla

Conservation status Vulnerable. Disappeared from many former haunts by the 1980s owing to loss and degradation of habitat and heavy nest parasitism by Brown-headed Cowbirds. Listed as endangered in 1987. Cooperative efforts by federal and state agencies and private landowners helped to reverse its decline. By 2018, recovery efforts were successful enough that the vireo was removed from the endangered species list.
Family Vireos
Habitat Oak scrub, brushy hills, rocky canyons. Breeds on hot dry hillsides with dense thickets of brush, especially scrub oaks, often with many openings or gaps rather than solid cover. Winters in Mexico in dense thickets and woodland edges, especially in foothills and lowlands.
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Feeding Behavior

Forages more actively than most vireos, moving among branches and twigs in dense cover, sometimes hanging upside down like a chickadee to take items from underside of foliage.


Eggs

3-4, rarely 2-5. White, unmarked (most other vireos lay spotted eggs). Incubation, by both parents, averages about 15 days, surprisingly long for small size of bird. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave the nest about 10-12 days after hatching, and may be cared for by parents for more than another month. Sometimes male is left to care for first brood while female begins 2nd nesting attempt.


Young

Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave the nest about 10-12 days after hatching, and may be cared for by parents for more than another month. Sometimes male is left to care for first brood while female begins 2nd nesting attempt.

Diet

Mostly insects, some berries. Feeds mainly on insects in summer; diet not known in detail, but eats many caterpillars, beetles, small grasshoppers and crickets, and others, as well as spiders. Also eats some berries and small fruits. Winter diet poorly known, but may include more berries.


Nesting

Male defends territory by singing frequently through much of breeding season. In courtship, male sings while following female; may also perform short song-flight. Nest: Placed in low scrubby oak or other dense shrub, usually 2-6' above ground, rarely higher. Both parents help build nest, a small hanging cup suspended in the horizontal fork of a twig. Nest is made of grass, strips of bark, weeds, leaves, bound together with spiderwebs; inside is lined with fine grass.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Generally arrives in Texas in April, departs in September. Migrates toward the southwest in fall, wintering along west coast of Mexico.

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Migration

Generally arrives in Texas in April, departs in September. Migrates toward the southwest in fall, wintering along west coast of Mexico.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Harsh and varied phrases, sometimes musical.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Black-capped Vireo

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.

Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.

Climate threats facing the Black-capped Vireo

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.

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