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White-eyed Vireo

(Vireo griseus)
Banded June 1999 - Newport, Indiana

General Information

About 40 vireo species occur only in the western hemisphere. Of these, 15 species migrate to North America to breed. The White-eyed Vireo is known by its distinctive un-vireo-like call and its bright white eye. These birds breed over most of the eastern USA south of a line extending from eastern Nebraska across Indiana and New York. They winter from the extreme southeastern USA through Central America to Guatemala and Cuba.


The White-eyed Vireo is about 4.5 to 5.5 inches long with a wingspan of 7.5 to 8.5 inches. It weighs about 1.5 ounce. The white throat is set off by its greenish plumage that blends well with its leafy habitat.


White-eyed Vireo
Figure 1 - White-eyed Vireo


Close-up of the white eye
Figure 2 - Close-up of the white eye

The face shows yellow-green spectacles around a spectacular white eye. The distinctive call of the White-eyed Vireo has been described as sounding like "chick-ah-per-weeoo-chick" or "quick, take me to the railroad, quick!" It also mimics notes and phrases of the Gray Catbird, American Robin, House Wren and other species (Stokes & Stokes 1996), and has a number of other calls unique to itself.


The short stout bill is well adapted to catch and eat its favorite foods. This photo shows the last view seen on this planet by insects, spiders, snails and small lizards.

White-eyed Vireo
Figure 3 - White-eyed Vireo


White-eyed Vireo upper wing
Figure 4 - White-eyed Vireo upper wing


Vireos have ten primary flight feathers. Two bright wingbars are easily seen. On adult birds, flight feathers and coverts are fresh with distinct greenish edging. (Pyle 1997).


Fledglings look much like the adult but are a bit duller overall. This young bird is still under the care of its parents, and will soon be heading south to its wintering grounds in Central America.


Fledgling White-eyed Vireo
Figure 5 - Fledgling White-eyed Vireo


Fledgling White-eyed Vireo
Figure 6 - Fledgling White-eyed Vireo


Fledglings lack the distinctive white iris of the adult. The white iris will develop in a few months, maybe by February of the next spring (Pyle 1997). Facial markings of the young bird are also reduced.


This photo shows the primary and secondary coverts of the newly fledged White-eyed Vireo. Compare the feathers in this photo with the adult feathers shown in Figure 5 above.


Fledgling White-eyed Vireo Coverts
Figure 7 - Fledgling White-eyed Vireo Coverts


Nesting Behavior

White-eyed Vireos prefer to nest in shrubs, thickets, hedgerows and edges of forests. The cup nest of leaves, bark flakes, and pieces of wasp nest is built by both the male and female. It is usually located in a low shrub up to 6 feet above the ground. Three to five eggs, incubated by both sexes, hatch in about two weeks. Both parents care for the young who leave the nest in 9 to 11 days.

Banding Recoveries

The Bird Banding Lab web site reports that between 1955 and 1997, a total of 37,238 White-eyed Vireos were banded. Of these, 77 have been recovered, a recovery rate of 0.206%.

Banding studies show that White-eyed Vireos are short distance migrants, and can more than 6 years in the wild.

If you should recover a banded bird, please report the band number to the Bird Banding Lab by calling 1-800-327-BAND.

Conservation Status

White-eyed Vireo populations seem to be increasing overall, but declines have been noted in some regions of their central breeding range. They are sure to be found where suitable breeding habitat is provided.

The White-eyed Vireo performs a valuable service by consuming many species of destructive insects. Their diet also consists of berries of dogwood, wax myrtle, wild grapes and other fruits. By eating these fruits, they assist in seed dispersal of these and many other species of useful plants. Seed dispersal of useful plants is an often under-appreciated service performed by wild birds.

Literature Cited

Pyle, P. 1997. Identification Guide to North American Birds. Part 1. Slate Creek Press, Bolinas, CA. 732 Pp.

Stokes, D. and L. Stokes. 1996. Stokes Field Guide to Birds, Eastern Region. Little, Brown & Co., New York. 471 Pp.

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