Birds – Red-eyed Vireo

(Vireo olivaceus) Vireo or Greenlet family

Called also : THE PREACHER

Length-5.75 to 6.25 inches. A fraction smaller than the English sparrow.

Male and Female—Upper parts light olive-green; well-defined slaty-gray cap, with black marginal line, below which, and forming an exaggerated eyebrow, is a line of white. A brownish band runs from base of bill through the eye. The iris is ruby-red. Underneath white, shaded with light greenish yellow on sides and on under tail and wing coverts.

Range—United States to Rockies and northward. Winters in Central and South America.

Migrations—April. October. Common summer resident.

” You see it—you know it—do you hear me ? Do you believe it ? ” is Wilson Flagg’s famous interpretation of the song of this commonest of all the vireos, that you cannot mistake with such a key. He calls the bird the preacher from its declamatory style: an up-and-down warble delivered with a rising inflection at the close and followed by an impressive silence, as if the little green orator were saying, ” I pause for a reply.”

Notwithstanding its quiet coloring, that so closely resembles the leaves it hunts among, this vireo is rather more noticeable than its relatives because of its slaty cap and the black-and-white lines over its ruby eye, that, in addition to the song, are its marked characteristics.

Whether she is excessively stupid or excessively kind, the mother-vireo has certainly won for herself no end of ridicule by allowing the cowbird to deposit a stray egg in the exquisitely made, pensile nest, where her own tiny white eggs are lying; and though the young cowbird crowd and worry her little fledglings and eat their dinner as fast as she can bring it in, no displeasure or grudging is shown towards the dusky intruder that is sure to upset the rightful heirs out of the nest before they are able to fly.

In the heat of a midsummer noon, when nearly every other bird’s voice is hushed, and only the locust seems to rejoice in the fierce sunshine, the little red-eyed vireo goes persistently about its business of gathering insects from the leaves, not flitting nervously about like a warbler, or taking its food on the wing like a flycatcher, but patiently and industriously dining where it can, and singing as it goes.

When a worm is caught it is first shaken against a branch to kill it before it is swallowed. Vireos haunt shrubbery and trees with heavy foliage, all their hunting, singing, resting, and home-building being done among the leaves—never on the ground.