Archive for Vireos

Blue-headed Vireo 6/10/18

Up until about 20 years ago when DNA studies began rewriting the relationships between bird species, Blue-headed Vireos were lumped together with the similar looking Cassin’s and Plumbeous Vireos of the west and southwest, and were together called the Solitary Vireo. Today they are recognized as 3 distinct species. All have prominent white “spectacles,” but the Blue-headed Vireo is the easternmost of the group, and most colorful with the bluest head and greenest body. They are small migratory songbirds with much stouter bills than the warblers, and like all vireos, there’s little to no distinction between the sexes. Vireos reside in the middle and upper canopies of hardwoods, where they are virtually impossible to see once the trees have leafed out, though the Blue-headed Vireo also makes use of mixed and coniferous woods.

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Red-eyed Vireo juvenile 9/4/14

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Vireos are warbler-like in that they also forage for insects and breed in woodland canopies but they are entirely unrelated, being closer cousins to crows, jays, and shrikes. Red-eyed Vireos are common throughout the forested parts of North America in the summer, then all of them head south to the Amazon basin for the winter. Up until migration the males sing incessantly, if you hear a simple song in the woods that sounds like a short question followed by a short answer—which I’ll paraphrase “Doodly doop, doodly doo,” and then repeated over and over, and over and over—well, that’s your Red-eyed Vireo. They are an olive green above and pale bellied below with a gray cap above alternating black and white eye-stripes.  This one’s a juvenile as only the adults have the red eye. The word vireo comes from the Latin, meaning  “I am green.”

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Blue-headed Vireo 5/8/14

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I have this tendency to think of vireos as stouter and slower cousins to the energetic wood warblers, but we now know vireos are really more closely related to the shrikes and crows than they are to warblers. Before 1997, this bird was called the Solitary Vireo, but DNA sequencing showed that the Solitary was really 3 species: the Blue-headed Vireo of the east coast and west across the Canadian forests, Cassin’s Vireo in California and the Pacific Northwest, and the Plumbeous Vireo found in Mexico and the southwestern states. Their markings are all similar but the Blue-headed Vireo is the most colorful of the three with a blue-gray head and yellowish flanks. Sexes are indistinguishable in vireos.

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Red-eyed Vireo 8/28/13

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Red-eyed Vireos are songbirds of the forest canopy, often heard but rarely seen, singing their question and answer phrases all day long, but they have gone quiet by the end of August before migrating south for the winter. In any case this is a juvenile who won’t start singing until next spring. Juveniles looks much like adults—olive green above and white below with the same blue-gray crown edged in black and a white eyebrow with a darker stripe through the eyes—which are dark brown instead of red in the adult.

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Blue-headed Vireo 6/17/13

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Blue-headed Vireos have a conspicuous pair of white spectacles around their eyes and across the base of their bill.  It’s typically the first of the vireos to return to the northeast, but now that it’s mid-June, the other vireos have all caught up. Blue-headeds used to be called Solitary Vireos, a species now split up into Blue-headed, Cassin’s, and Plumbeous Vireos.

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Red-eyed Vireo 5/22/13

redeyedvireo

Red-eyed Vireos are the commonest bird of eastern woodlands that you simply never see. They hang out high in the canopy and sing all day long using phrases that often sound like questions followed by answers, and once the trees have thoroughly leafed out it’s pretty near impossible to find them. Vireos are a bit stockier and larger than warblers, though they aren’t much related. Red-eyed Vireos are drab olive on the back, whiter bellied, with a dark red eye and a gray cap.

 

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Red-eyed Vireo, 10/22/12

Vireos are often confused or lumped in with wood warblers on account of similar sizes and habits but they have much stouter bills and actually aren’t closely related. The Red-eyed Vireo is olive greenish from the top with white belly, a red iris (only in the adults which makes this one a juvenile), and a gray crown edged in black. While fairly common across the northern US and southern Canada, they’re more often heard than seen, as they hang out in dense canopies foraging for caterpillars and other leaf-dwelling insects, and sing their question and answer phrases almost nonstop for much of the breeding season. Fetched at Odiorne Point.

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