Red-eyed Vireo: Medium vireo with olive-brown upperparts and white underparts. Head has a gray cap, white eyebrow, black eyestripe, and red eyes. Blue-gray legs and feet. Alternates short glides with series of rapid wingbeats. May hover briefly to pick berries or insects from foliage.
Range and Habitat
Red-eyed Vireo: Breeds from the Northwest Territories east to Ontario and Gulf of Saint Lawrence and south through British Columbia to Oregon, along the California coastline, Colorado, the Gulf Coast, and Florida. Spends winters in the tropics. Inhabits mature deciduous woodlands; also found in shade trees in residential areas.
The vireos are one of the one hundred eighteen families of birds in the order PASSERIFORMES (pronounced pas-ser-i-FOR-meez); a large taxonomic order that also includes the bulbuls, dippers, and gnatcatchers.
A family mostly restricted to the New World, the Vireonidae (pronounced vir-eh-ON-uh-dee) is composed of fifty-nine species of vireos in six genera.
Thirty-seven species of vireos in four genera occur in North America. In addition to various vireo species, the Neotropical peppershrikes and greenlets are also members of this family.
Like most members of the Vireonidae, the Red-eyed Vireo is known for its habit of constantly singing throughout the day during the breeding season.
Vireos are small birds with rather stocky heads, medium length tails, and fairly long wings. They have medium length legs and feet, and rather strong medium length bills with a small hook at the tip.
Members of the vireo family show green, brown, or gray upperparts, and white or yellow underparts. All show facial markings such as spectacles, eyebrows, and eyelines on gray or bluish heads, and some species have light-colored wingbars.
Various members of the Vireonidae occupy most types of forest and scrub habitats in North America including pinyon-juniper forest (the Gray and Plumbeous Vireos), desert riparian zones (the Warbling Vireo), and mangroves of southern Florida (Black-whiskered Vireo). Members of the family either occur high up in the trees, or low down in thick scrubby vegetation.
Most vireos are long distance migrants to Central and South America.
Vireos do not form flocks, nor do they nest in colonies, although they readily join mixed species flocks during migration and on their wintering grounds. Vireos typically forage by slowly moving through the vegetation to glean larvae and other invertebrates from the leaves and branches, often smacking a prey item on a branch to kill it. Birds that sing slow phrases generally forage high up in the trees, while those that sing rapid chattering songs skulk in the low, thick vegetation.
Although no vireo species in North America is endangered, a distinct subspecies, the “Western Warbling Vireo” has declined due to destruction of the southwestern riparian habitats in which it lives.
The Cassin’s, Plumbeous, and Blue-headed Vireos were at one time thought to be distinct subspecies of the same species, the Solitary Vireo. They were split after studies demonstrated that their plumages, songs, and habitat use differed enough to rank them as separate species.