Conservation status Northern edge of range varies over time: for example, disappeared from Massachusetts and then re-invaded; spread into Michigan in 1960s. Surveys indicate slight declines over much of range since 1960s.
Family Vireos
Habitat Wood edges, brush, brambles, undergrowth. Breeds in various kinds of dense low growth, including briar tangles on low swampy ground, shrubby thickets of maple, wild plum, willow, and other saplings in overgrown pastures, and scrub in open woods or near forest edges. Winters in a wide array of similar habitats.
A busy bird of the thickets, most common in the southeast. Although the White-eyed Vireo usually stays in dense cover, it is not always hard to see; it will come up to examine and scold a birder who stands near the bushes and makes squeaking sounds. Even when it remains out of sight, its snappy song is distinctive. In Bermuda, where the bird is common, it is widely known as 'chick-of-the-village,' a good rendition of the song.

Feeding Behavior

Forages by moving actively among twigs and branches in dense low cover, searching for insects among the foliage. Often hovers momentarily to take insects from leaves.


4, sometimes 3-5. White with specks of brown or black. Incubation is by both parents, 13-15 days. Nests are commonly parasitized by cowbirds. Young: Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 9-11 days after hatching. 1 brood per year in the north, 2 in the south.


Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 9-11 days after hatching. 1 brood per year in the north, 2 in the south.


Insects and berries. In the breeding season, takes almost entirely insects, and nearly one-third of diet then may be caterpillars, moths, and butterflies. Diet also includes true bugs, scale insects, many kinds of beetles, ants, wasps, bees, grasshoppers; also spiders, snails, and occasionally small lizards. In migration and in winter, also eats berries and small fruits.


Male sings incessantly from early spring to late summer to defend nesting territory. In courtship, male displays to female by fluffing plumage, spreading tail, and uttering a whining call. Nest: Placed low (within 25' of ground, usually much lower) in shrub or sapling. Nest is supported by the rim woven onto a horizontal forked twig. Both parents help build nest, a deep, hanging cup made of twigs, roots, shreds of bark, grass stems, leaves, plant down, lichen, moss, sometimes fragments of wasp nests. Nest is bound with spiderwebs, lined with fine grass and fibers.

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

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Present all year in many southern areas. Farther north, appears relatively early in spring and lingers fairly late in fall compared to most vireos. A very rare stray in the West.

  • 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

Loud, explosive series of notes, chip-a-wheeoo-chip or Quick, give me a rain check!
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.