At a Glance
This bird of the treetops is rather uncommon and often overlooked, or passed off as another vireo. It looks somewhat like a Warbling Vireo, and its song of short phrases sounds much like that of a Red-eyed Vireo. In some places where it overlaps with the Red-eye, the two species will even defend territories against each other. Despite its name, this vireo is only an uncommon migrant around Philadelphia, and does not nest in that region.
All bird guide text and rangemaps adapted from Lives of North American Birds by Kenn Kaufman© 1996, used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Perching Birds, Vireos
Forests and Woodlands, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets
California, Eastern Canada, Florida, Great Lakes, Mid Atlantic, New England, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Southeast, Southwest, Texas, Western Canada
Direct Flight, Flitter, Rapid Wingbeats
Range & Identification
Migration & Range Maps
Migrates mostly at night. In spring, most fly north across the Gulf of Mexico and then spread out as they continue northward. Along the Atlantic Coast, more likely to be seen in fall than in spring.
6" (15 cm). Smaller than Warbling Vireo, with variable yellow below, distinct dark lores (between eye and bill), different song. Yellow brightest on central upper chest (Warbling Vireo may show yellow mainly on sides). See Tennessee Warbler.
About the size of a Robin, About the size of a Sparrow
Black, Brown, Gray, Green, White, Yellow
Songs and Calls
Like the Red-eyed Vireo but higher and slower, See-me? Here-I-am! Up-here. See-me?
Falling, Flat, Undulating
Buzz, Chirp/Chip, Whistle
Second growth; poplars, willows, alders. Breeds in deciduous and mixed woodlands, especially near their edges, or in the young growth of overgrown pastures. Also nests in willows and alders along streams, lakes, and ponds. In winter in the tropics, often in fairly dry forest in lowlands and foothills.
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4, sometimes 3-5. White with brown or black spots near large end. Incubation is by both parents, about 14 days.
Nestlings are fed by both parents. The young leave the nest about 12-14 days after hatching.
Forages mostly in deciduous trees and shrubs, moving about actively as it searches for insects. Often hovers to take items from foliage, or hangs upside down at the tips of twigs to take insects from underside. Sometimes flies out to catch insects in mid-air.
Mostly insects, some berries. Feeds mostly on insects, including caterpillars, moths, beetles, wasps, bees, ants, ichneumons, true bugs, and many others; also some spiders. Eats many berries in late summer and fall, including those of bayberry and dogwood.
Male sings to defend nesting territory. In courtship display, male faces female and sways from side to side, fluffing plumage and spreading tail; both members of pair vibrate wings rapidly. Nest site is 10-90' above the ground in deciduous tree such as aspen, willow, alder, or maple. Nest is a compact, basket-like cup, its rim woven onto a horizontal forked twig. Nest (built by both sexes) made of grass, strips of birch bark, lichen, weeds, spiderwebs, and cocoons, lined with pine needles, grass, and feathers.
Could be vulnerable to loss of habitat, especially on wintering grounds. Current populations seem stable.
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Philadelphia Vireo. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.
Climate Threats Facing the Philadelphia 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.