Red-eyed VireoVireo olivaceus (Linnaeus)
Status Common in summer. Breeds. Widely distributed where there are groves of deciduous trees or where these trees predominate in settled and remote areas. It usually arrives about mid-May (average 18 May, earliest 8 May, not including a bird seen by Betty June and Sidney Smith on Cape Sable on 30 April 1970) and is widespread by the end of May. Latest fall reports are usually in October, with a few late stragglers (average 15 October, latest 14 November).
Description Length: 14-16.5 cm. Adults: Top of head blue-gray, margined with stripes of black; prominent white line over eye; back, wings and tail light olive-brown, showing a slight lustre; no wing bars; iris red; underparts white. Immatures: Iris brown.
Breeding Nest: Very similar to that of the Solitary Vireo, but the material used in its construction varies considerably with location, availability probably being the governing factor. Maple, apple and elm trees, in that order, appear to be the favoured nest sites. The nests are placed at heights of 1-6 m or more. Eggs: 3-4, usually 3; white, sparsely speckled all over with black. Nest building begins during the second week in June and sets of first laying are complete by the end of the third week in June. Some nesting dates are 2 July 1898, three eggs about one-half incubated, 6 m up in a maple; 18 June 1913, four fresh eggs about 3 m up in a maple; 12 July 1918, three eggs heavily incubated about 3 m up in a maple; and 20 June 1928, three eggs about one-half incubated in an apple tree, about 1 m from the ground: all were in or near Wolfville. On 10 August 1940, Martin H. Bushell saw an unusually late nest being built in a small birch at Hazel Hill, Guysborough County. On 16 August, it contained two eggs and on 30 August he found three very young vireos being cared for by both parents. From then on he visited the nest daily and saw the young leave on 9 September with both adults; they were not seen again.
Range Breeds from British Columbia, the southeastern Mackenzie Valley, central Manitoba, central Ontario, southern Quebec, and the Maritimes, south to Florida, central Texas and northern Oregon. Winters in South America.
Remarks This is the bird that builds the trim, tightly woven pensile nest that is seen hanging from the branches of our shade trees. The nest is usually so well concealed by the foliage in summer that few know of its presence until the leaves fall in autumn, but from then on and during winter it is very conspicuous. So well known are these nests that in some districts the builders are called "hanging-birds."
The male is an inveterate singer. His monotonous, short song is repeated over and over again during most of the day for most of the summer.
Vireos are sluggish, slow-moving birds, often seen hanging upside-down in midair, clinging to a leaf, apparently finding such incongruous positions the most appropriate for consuming the caterpillars and aphids that rank high on their daily menu.
This is our most common vireo and one of our most common woodland birds. In addition to its red eyes, it may be identified by its black and white eyebrow stripes and its lack of wing bars.
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