Bird GuideVireosWarbling Vireo

At a Glance

Rather plain, but with a cheery warbled song, the Warbling Vireo is a common summer bird in leafy groves and open woods from coast to coast. Because it avoids solid tracts of mature, unbroken forest, it is probably more common and widespread today than it was when the Pilgrims landed. Some scientists believe that eastern and western Warbling Vireos may represent two different species; if that is true, then the two are very difficult to tell apart in the wild.
Perching Birds, Vireos
Low Concern
Arroyos and Canyons, Forests and Woodlands, High Mountains, 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. Most eastern breeders apparently travel north and south via Texas and Mexico, rather than flying across Gulf of Mexico.


5-6" (13-15 cm). Gray and white, sometimes with yellow and olive tinges. No wing-bars. White eyebrow is obvious, but darker line through eye is faint, so dark eye is conspicuous on pale face. Listen for the song as one of the best clues. See Tennessee Warbler.
About the size of a Robin, About the size of a Sparrow
Black, Gray, White, Yellow
Wing Shape
Tail Shape
Notched, Square-tipped

Songs and Calls

Drowsy, rambling warble, like song of Purple Finch but slower; ends on rising note.
Call Pattern
Falling, Flat, Undulating
Call Type
Buzz, Chirp/Chip, Hi, Scream, Trill, Whistle


Deciduous and mixed woods, aspen groves, poplars, shade trees. Breeds in open deciduous or mixed woodland; also in orchards, shade trees of towns. Avoids unbroken mature forest. In the East, often in isolated groves near water. In the West, breeds in broad-leaved trees of mountains, canyons, and prairie groves. Winters in the tropics in open woods.



4, sometimes 3-5. White with brown or black specks. Incubation is by both parents, 12-14 days. Male frequently sings from nest while incubating. Commonly parasitized by cowbirds.


Nestlings are fed and brooded by both parents, leave the nest 12-16 days after hatching.

Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly in deciduous trees, sometimes in shrubs, hopping along twigs and searching for insects among the leaves. also picks insects off the undersides of leaves while hovering briefly.


Mostly insects, some berries. In breeding season feeds mainly on insects, including many caterpillars, plus aphids, beetles, grasshoppers, ants, bugs, scale insects, flies, dragonflies; also eats some spiders and snails. Takes berries and small fruit from bunchberry, dogwood, pokeweed, sumac, elderberry, poison-oak, and many other plants, especially in late summer and fall.


Male defends territory by singing. In courtship, male struts and hops around female with his wings spread and tail fanned, usually not far from potential nest site. Nest: In the East, usually placed high in tree, up to 90'. In the West, often found in shrub or tree within 30' of ground. Generally deciduous tree or shrub. Nest (built by both sexes) is a compact, deep cup, suspended by its rim from a forked twig. Nest made of bark strips, grass, leaves, and plant fibers.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Since it favors open woods and edges, probably increased in some areas initially with clearing and breaking up of forest. Now common and widespread.

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 Warbling Vireo. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the Warbling 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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