Thursday, September 8, 2011


Thursday, September 8, 2011
Red-eyed vireo

We have three species of vireos that nest on our farm here in southeastern Ohio: red-eyed, white-eyed, and yellow-throated. There are three others that we see each spring and fall, just passin' through: blue-headed (formerly solitary and I can't seem to remember to use the "new" name), warbling, and Philadelphia. If we really stretched our birding fantasy list to the extreme I suppose we could one day see a Bell's vireo here at Indigo Hill, but if we do, that sighting will get its very own blog post.

White-eyed vireo

All summer long we hear the red-eyeds singing almost constantly. Yellow-throateds seem to be more selective singers, but when they do sing, they do it a lot. Their hoarse-sounding question-and-answer song seems to come mostly from our oak woods.

White-eyeds sing a ton during courtship, then not at all during nesting it seems. I wonder if the tree-top-loving red-eyeds and yellow-throateds sing more regularly (or the white-eyeds less) due to their relative exposure to predators. A red-eyed vireo singing in the top of a tulip poplar is very hard to find. A white-eyed may be skulking in the shadows, but it's usually at eye level or below in a patch of brushy habitat. Does this make them more susceptible to predators?

Yellow-throated vireo

Now that fall migration has started, these vireos can still be heard singing, though with nowhere near the intensity of the earlier seasons. The other notable behavior of fall migration is the aggressiveness of the red-eyed vireos. They zip and swoop from tree to tree, often chasing other birds. I imagine these other birds thinking "What the heck? Leave me alone!" I'm sure this behavior has something to do with the fluctuation in hormone levels brought on by the end of the breeding season and the onset of fall migration.

The red-eyeds remind me of teenage boys who, when they find themselves just standing around doing, nothing get the sudden urge to punch a nearby shoulder. This punch often elicits another, and so on.

Our vireos' aggressiveness sometimes pays nice dividends, like this morning when a pair of (probably young) red-eyeds chased two warblers out of deep cover in our sycamore tree: one was an adult male black-throated blue (my favorite North American warbler) and the other was a yellow-throated warbler—both firsts for this fall.

Philadelphia vireo

Later in September we start sorting through the vireos more carefully, looking for a Philadelphia vireo. We see far more of them in fall than in spring migration. It's one of the many treats of autumn that makes the leaving of summer just a little easier to take here in Vireotown.


On September 8, 2011 at 11:08 PM Birding is Fun! said...

Nice! Dish me up some of those vireos in Lakeside, would ya? I've seen loads of Warbling and just two Red-eyed. Several Cassin's and a few Plumbeous. I have seen Bell's, Hutton's and even Blue-headed. So seeing Philadelphia, Yellow-throated, and White-eyed, would really help me round out that family of birds.

On September 9, 2011 at 12:28 PM Heather said...

The Red-eyeds have been vocal on our property all summer, and even now with their calls in post-breeding season. At our place we have the same trio you mention, although I have to venture off the property to get the white-eyeds. Had nice views of a YBCU in our treetops the other day, too - silent as could be, but his flights between the trees caught my eye. That was a real treat. Now if only a Black-throated Blue would pass right by my bedroom window.... !

On September 11, 2011 at 12:54 AM Jeremy Medina said...

I would love to beef up my list of vireos with some of the ones on your farm. Great looking site Bill!

On September 11, 2011 at 8:33 PM Nita said...

The Black-throated Blue is also my favorite. Ray Harm, the Kentucky painter, now of the Southwest did a beautiful painting of it. One of the prints now graces my living room wall. Since I don't live where they nest, I can look at it everyday. White-eyed Vireos are also a favorite.

On September 12, 2011 at 2:00 PM Chatterbirds said...

Nice round-up of the vireos on your farm. I was surprised to read that Warblings don't breed there. Is that due to a lack of riparian habitat?

On September 22, 2011 at 4:32 PM Jerry Hingle said...

This is a very impressive blog. I'm relatively new to birding but this blog inspires me to learn more!

On January 10, 2012 at 9:02 PM Wholesale Printing said...

Interest to read. Thanks For Update. Pls Update More news Embossed Business Cards