My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Red-eyed Vireo, Vireo olivaceus

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Red-eyed Vireo, Vireo olivaceus

The Red-eyed Vireo is a small American songbird, 13–14 cm (5.1–5.5 in) in length. It is somewhat warbler-like but not closely related to the New World warblers.

Adults are mainly olive-green on the upper parts with white underparts; they have a red iris and a grey crown edged with black. There is a dark blackish line through the eyes and a wide white stripe just above that line. They have thick blue-grey legs and a stout bill. They are yellowish on the flanks and under-tail coverts (though this is faint in some populations).

This bird, not always seen, may sing for long periods of time; it appears to be endlessly repeating the same question and answer. It holds the record for most songs given in a single day among bird species. More than 20,000 songs in one day.

The breeding habitat is open wooded areas across Canada and the eastern and northwestern United States. These birds migrate to South America, where they spend the winter. The Latin American population occur in virtually any wooded habitat in their range. Most of these are residents, but the populations breeding in the far southern part of this species’ range (e.g. most of its range in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia) migrate north as far as Central America.

Red-eyed Vireos glean insects from tree foliage, favoring caterpillars and aphids and sometimes hovering while foraging. In some tropical regions, they are commonly seen to attend mixed-species feeding flocks, moving through the forest higher up in the trees than the bulk of such flocks.

They also eat berries, especially before migration, and in the winter quarters, where trees bearing popular fruit like Tamanqueiro or Gumbo-limbo will even attract them to parks and gardens. Fruits are typically not picked up from a hover, but the birds often quite acrobatically reach for them, even hanging upside down.

The nest is a cup in a fork of a tree branch. The Red-eyed Vireo suffers from nest parasitism by the Brown-headed Cowbird  in the north of its range, and by the Shiny Cowbird  further south.

On to my photos:

Red-eyed Vireo, Vireo olivaceus

Red-eyed Vireo, Vireo olivaceus

Red-eyed Vireo, Vireo olivaceus

Red-eyed Vireo, Vireo olivaceus

Red-eyed Vireo, Vireo olivaceus

Red-eyed Vireo, Vireo olivaceus

Red-eyed Vireo, Vireo olivaceus

Red-eyed Vireo, Vireo olivaceus

Red-eyed Vireo, Vireo olivaceus

Red-eyed Vireo, Vireo olivaceus

Red-eyed Vireo, Vireo olivaceus

Red-eyed Vireo, Vireo olivaceus

This is number 133 in my photo life list, only 217 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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14 responses

  1. Love your idea for this blog. I wonder if we get most of the same birds?

    November 20, 2013 at 8:41 am

    • Thanks Barb! Since you live in Minnesota, the list of species of birds would be very close to that of Michigan. The state chapter of the Audubon Society of each state usually maintains a list for their state if you’re interested, and a quick Google search can find your state’s list.

      November 20, 2013 at 9:07 am

  2. I never knew that there was such a wide range of colors in bird’s eyes. It’s pretty amazing. I wonder how long you had to stalk this one to get such a good shot of its eye!

    November 20, 2013 at 11:03 am

    • Well, most birds have brown or black eyes, it’s only the vireos, raptors, and owls that have other colored eyes as far as I know. I deleted 25 good photos of these red-eyed vireos because I couldn’t see the eye color, but the best shot was one of those deals where one of them landed very close to me and sat there while I fired off a burst of photos.

      November 20, 2013 at 12:12 pm

      • Isn’t there a yellow eyed duck? It seems to me that I saw a photo of one on a blog somewhere. It looked odd. There’s also another bird that has white eyes, i think.

        November 20, 2013 at 5:52 pm

      • Now that you mention it, there are several species of golden-eye ducks, (which could be considered yellow eyes) and a few other species of ducks have red eyes. And yes, there are white eyed vireos, you commented on my photo of one of them that the white eye was spooky, or something to that effect.

        November 21, 2013 at 2:54 am

    • Well, most birds ave brown or black eyes, it’s only the vireos, raptors, and owls that have other colored eyes as far as I know. I deleted 25 good photos of these red-eyed vireos because I couldn’t see the eye color, but the best shot was one of those deals where one of them landed very close to me and sat there while I fired off a burst of photos.

      November 20, 2013 at 12:12 pm

  3. That telephoto lens is working beautifully! Did you realize that the vireo’s behavior would allow you to get the sunlight to strike the eye at just that angle? Great capture!

    November 21, 2013 at 7:47 am

    • Thanks Lori! When I shot those, I was in the middle of a flock of the vireos, and I was looking for ones that were out in the open. When I got a clear view of them, I pressed the shutter release, as with many small birds, they don’t sit still for very long. I shot about 50 photos to whittle down to 20, then to the six in the post.

      November 21, 2013 at 9:14 am

      • Wow– but it’s worth it! Do you use a motor drive or whatever the current equivalent is on your camera?

        November 21, 2013 at 1:51 pm

      • Not really. Digital SLRs don’t require a motor drive, there’s no film to advance. But, they typically have a “burst” mode, where they shoot as quickly as they can recycle, until the memory buffer fills. I seldom use that, I found that it is a good way to take lots of bad photos in a hurry. I trust my trigger finger, most birds have a rhythm to their movements, and once I get used to that bird’s rhythm, selectively shooting works better for portraits. Action shots are a different story, I’d use burst then, if I could switch quickly enough.

        November 21, 2013 at 2:01 pm

      • Makes sense…that’s why I’ve hesitated to go to “digital drive”, wasting space or wasting time deleting stuff. Back in the day, we used to use motor drives for sports photography when every frame really did count but that’s talking many years ago. 😉 Thanks for the input/info!

        November 21, 2013 at 5:07 pm

  4. Talk about a tough bird to capture ! Wonderful photos that you have for them. You’ll get to learn how to have the burst mode and just capture two at a time. That’s what I do.

    November 21, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    • Thanks Emily! I need to try out the burst mode of the Canon, I haven’t done that yet. I used it on the old Nikon, and didn’t care for it. I lucked out on the vireos, the surrounded me with a few of them striking poses for me.

      November 22, 2013 at 2:09 am