Red-eyed Vireo

Vireo olivaceus


Early Spring Date: April 16
Late Spring Date: June 1
Most Frequently Seen: May 7-16
Has Nested in Park

The Red-eyed Vireo is the most common vireo seen at Monticello by a wide margin. Large numbers pass through during the first three weeks in May, and in some years, they have nested in the park.

Where to See Them in the Park

Red-eyed Vireos sing high in the trees, but they often come down to where people can see them more easily.

Physical Description


Red-eyed Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo - Photo by Michael Pollack

Red-eyed Vireos are olive birds with a gray cap and a red eye. They do not have wingbars. They have a broad white line over their eye, and the line has black borders. The flanks and undertail are yellow-green. The sexes are similar. Compared to warblers, they are larger, have a larger and thicker bill, and do not move as quickly.

Red-eyed Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo - Photo by Michael Pollack

They rarely go into the stream to bathe. They prefer to wet their feathers by dipping into the stream and coming out immediately.

Red-eyed Vireo Nest
Red-eyed Vireo Nest - Photo by Michael Pollack

Red-eyed Vireos have nested at Monticello Park. The above photo shows a young vireo who had recently fledged and was perched near the nest. Red-eyed Vireos build a deep cupped structure and put twigs, vines, rootlets, and other materials on the outside.

Vocalizations

The Red-eyed Vireo is one of the most persistent singers in the bird world. A male on territory will sometimes sing his monotonous Here am I. Where are you? song from sunrise to sunset. The call note is whiny and sounds like the single note of a Gray Catbird.

Hear the vocalizations of the Red-eyed Vireo.

Notes

While the song of the Red-eyed Vireo might sound monotonous, it includes variations that an untrained ear usually cannot detect. Someone once counted more than 22,000 songs sung by a single Red-eyed Vireo during one day. Because of the seemingly non-stop vocalizing, some people in the 1800s dubbed the Red-eyed Vireo "the preacher bird". The ornithologist Bradford Torrey commented: "The red-eye's eloquence was never very persuasive to my ear. Its short sentences, its tiresome upward inflections, its everlasting repetitiousness, and its sharp, querulous tone long since became to me an old story; and I have always thought that whoever dubbed this vireo the 'preacher' could have had no very exalted opinion of the clergy".

Origin of Names

Common Names: Red-eyed from the red eye. Vireo is Latin for "green".
Genus Name: Vireo means "green".
Species Name: Olivaceus means "olive-colored".

Red-eyed Vireo video footage

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