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June 1, 2013

Miracles of Migration Series VI : The White Eyed Vireo

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 9:35 am

The White Eyed Vireo is a small insect eating song bird heard all over the North American Continent east of the Rockies. The singing is most often the male calling for his mate. The song is so distinctive that once heard few birders ever forget the notes. Among experienced birders the belief is if you hear the White Eyed Vireo you are not likely to see him and if you see him he is likely to be very quiet and not a peep is heard from him. The location of the breeding areas is in woodlands and scrub and the undergrowth.


The White Eyed Vireo is a small bird the adult is about 5 inches long the bird has a gray face with the white eyes and yellow spectacles. The neck is white and the back is greenish yellow. The wings of the White Eyed Vireo have 2 white wing bars. The male and female White Eyed Vireos appear identical. The White Eyed Vireos build their nests in small trees usually at a forking of a branch. The nest is woven from moss and wasps nest fibers. The nesting pair builds the nest together. The female lays 3 to 4 eggs and either of the pair incubates the eggs. The eggs hatch in 2 weeks and both parents participate in feeding the chicks.


The chicks of the White Eyed Vireos grow fast with both parents feeding them diligently. By age 4 weeks the chicks begin flying out of the nest tentatively. They learn quickly and begin foraging for insects along the tree trunks and branches. In September the process of migration begins and the birds start flying southward towards Texas and the rest of the Gulf Coast. The journey is long and arduous for these tiny birds which weigh about a half ounce each. The Vireos are “Powered Fliers” which means they fly on their own energy and not on air currents. They are night fliers and during the day they stop to replenish. It takes a lot of energy for these tiny song birds to cover the distances and they have to stop to refuel.


There are some White Eyed Vireos that are resident in South Texas and along the Gulf Coast and in the Florida Keys. The rest of the white Eyed Vireos migrate to Central America and South America. The White Eyed Vireos are night fliers and stop during the day to forage and eat to build up their strength. The distances these tiny song birds travel in their migration is huge as compared to their size and strength. White Eyed Vireos travel 2000 miles when they go south for the winter months to the non breeding locations. They will live there, eat well, gain in weight and strength and return in April and May of the following year. They return and bring their exquisite six note song which then rings out from all the woodlands of the entire North American Continent.


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