At a Glance
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.
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
Alaska and The North, California, Eastern Canada, Florida, Great Lakes, Mid Atlantic, New England, Northwest, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Southeast, Southwest, Texas, Western Canada
Direct Flight, Flitter, Rapid Wingbeats
Range & Identification
Migration & Range Maps
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.
6" (15 cm). Strong head pattern, with black stripes setting off white eyebrow, gray crown. White below, often with yellow wash on sides. Larger, longer-billed than Warbling Vireo. Red eye (brown on young birds) hard to see.
About the size of a Robin, About the size of a Sparrow
Black, Gray, Green, Red, White, Yellow
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.
Falling, Flat, Undulating
Buzz, Chirp/Chip, Whistle
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.
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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.
Nestlings are fed by both parents. Young leave the nest 10-12 days after hatching.
Forages in trees by picking insects from foliage and from undersides of leaves and flowers, often while hovering momentarily.
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.
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.
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.
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Red-eyed Vireo. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.
Climate Threats Facing the Red-eyed 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.