Bird GuideVireosGray Vireo

At a Glance

Few birds are as plain as the Gray Vireo, a drab summer resident of juniper woods and open brush in the Great Basin region. What it lacks in color, however, it makes up for with personality, hopping around actively in the scrub, singing, and flopping its tail about. Sometimes the bird seems unafraid, coming quite close to birders who stand still in its habitat.
Perching Birds, Vireos
Low Concern
Arroyos and Canyons, Desert and Arid Habitats, Forests and Woodlands, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets
California, Rocky Mountains, Southwest, Texas
Direct Flight, Flitter, Rapid Wingbeats

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

A short-distance migrant, wintering in northwestern Mexico.


5-5 3/4" (13-15 cm). Gray above, whitish below, with narrow white eye-ring, usually one faint wing-bar. Much plainer than Plumbeous Vireo. Looks slightly long-tailed, often flips tail up and down.
About the size of a Sparrow
Black, Gray, White
Wing Shape
Tail Shape
Notched, Square-tipped

Songs and Calls

Song is a series of 4-6 phrases with a pause between each phrase and a much longer pause between stanzas: cheerio . . . che-whew . . . chireep? . . . cheerio.
Call Pattern
Falling, Flat, Undulating
Call Type
Buzz, Chirp/Chip, Whistle


Brushy mountain slopes, mesas, open chaparral, scrub oak, junipers. Breeds in dry thorn scrub, chaparral, pinyon-juniper and oak-juniper scrub, or sagebrush and mesquites of arid foothills and mesas, between 3,000-6,500' elevation. In winter, in northwest Mexico, found near coast in dry thorn scrub of elephant trees and giant cacti.



4, sometimes 3-5. Pinkish-white with brown specks scattered near large end. Incubation is by both parents, 13-14 days. Cowbirds frequently lay eggs in nests of this species. Gray Vireos will sometimes deal with such parasitism by constructing second floor of nest over cowbird eggs.


Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave the nest 13-14 days after hatching. 2 broods per year.

Feeding Behavior

Usually forages within 5' of the ground, moving about actively in brush on dry slopes. Also does some foraging on the ground. In winter, individuals defend feeding territories, driving away others of their own kind.


Insects and fruits. During the breeding season, feeds mostly on insects, including beetles, caterpillars, small moths, bugs, treehoppers, tree crickets, dobsonflies, cicadas, grasshoppers, and many others. In winter, eats many berries, especially those of elephant trees, in addition to insects.


Male defends nesting territory by singing through much of breeding season. Nest: Placed in shrub, frequently oak or juniper, 1-12' from ground, but most commonly 2-8' up. Nest is supported by the rim woven onto a horizontal forked twig. Nest (built by both sexes) is a deep, rounded cup made of weeds, shreds of bark, grass stems, leaves, and plant fibers; bound with spiderwebs, and lined with fine grass.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Population status not well known, but probably stable.

Climate Map

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Gray Vireo. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the Gray 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.