Birds – Solitary Vireo

(Vireo solitarius) Vireo or Greenlet family


Length—5.5 to 7 inches. A little smaller than the English sparrow.

Male—Dusky olive above ; head bluish gray, with a white line around the eye, spreading behind the eye into a patch. Beneath whitish, with yellow-green wash on the sides. Wings dusky olive, with two distinct white bars. Tail dusky, some quills edged with white.

Female—Similar, but her head is dusky olive.

Range—United States to plains, and the southern British provinces. Winters in Florida and southward.

Migrations—May. Early October. Common during migrations; more rarely a summer resident south of Massachusetts.

By no means the recluse that its name would imply, the solitary vireo, while a bird of the woods, shows a charming curiosity about the stranger with opera-glasses in hand, who has penetrated to the deep, swampy tangles, where it chooses to live. Peering at you through the green undergrowth with an eye that seems especially conspicuous because of its encircling white rim, it is at least as sociable and cheerful as any member of its family, and Mr. Bradford Torrey credits it with ” winning tameness.” ” Wood-bird as it is,” he says, “it will sometimes permit the greatest familiarities. Two birds I have seen, which allowed themselves to be stroked in the freest manner, while sitting on the eggs, and which ate from my hand as readily as any pet canary.”

The solitary vireo also builds a pensile nest, swung from the crotch of a branch, not so high from the ground as the yellow-throated vireo’s nor so exquisitely finished, but still a beautiful little structure of pine-needles, plant-fibre, dry leaves, and twigs, all lichen-lined and bound and rebound with coarse spiders’ webs.

The distinguishing quality of this vireo’s celebrated song is its tenderness : a pure, serene uplifting of its loving, trustful nature that seems inspired by a fine spirituality.