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.
Family Vireos
Habitat 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.
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.

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.


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


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


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.

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

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Migrates mostly at night. Most eastern breeders apparently travel north and south via Texas and Mexico, rather than flying across Gulf of Mexico.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon

See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.

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Songs and Calls

Drowsy, rambling warble, like song of Purple Finch but slower; ends on rising note.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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