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Species Description

Red-eyed Vireo

Vireo olivaceus

Species Image


Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Vireonidae


Dark olive back; white or pale under parts; grayish cap; red eye; white eyebrow bordered below by a black eye stripe and above by another black stripe. 15 cm (6 in) in length.

Life Cycle

The breeding season begins in early May, peaks later in May, and extends to late July. The nest is built 1.5-20 m (5-35 feet) above the ground. The female constructs the nest from grapevine bark, grasses, and other plant material, using spider webs to help hold it all together. The nest commonly hangs from a fork of two branches. The female lays 3-5 (usually 4) eggs that she incubates for 11-14 days. The young are altricial and remain in the nest for 10-12 days after hatching. The young are cared for by both adults after they hatch until after they leave the nest.

Natural History

The Red-eyed Vireo is most commonly found in deciduous forest. It feeds by gleaning insects, spiders, and occasionally fruit from trees. It hunts from a perch. When an insect is found, it flies to it and hovers while removing it. The Red-eyed Vireo also forages by hopping among the leaves and branches of trees and shrubs in search of prey such as the caterpillars that hide on the underside of leaves. This species migrates over long distances.


Red-eyed Vireo Region Map The Red-eyed Vireo resides in the United States only during the breeding season. Most birds spend the winters in South America. Breeding populations occur in the eastern and northern parts of the United States. In the Southeast, breeding birds are common throughout most of the area. During the breeding season, Red-eyed Vireos are more common in the northern part of Georgia. When migrating they are fairly common throughout the state.

Conservation Status

The Red-eyed Vireo is a declining forest songbird. No definite cause of its decline has been found, although destruction of its wintering and breeding habitat has been labeled as a possible cause. The Red-eyed Vireo is commonly parasitized by the Brown-headed Cowbird. The Brown-headed Cowbird lays eggs in many songbird nests. The host bird incubates and cares for these interlopers, commonly to the detriment of its own young. This species is fairly common in appropriate habitat and is not listed as Threatened or Endangered in any portion of its southeastern range.

Similar Species

The voice of the Red-eyed Vireo is similar to that of most of the other vireos. They contain short phrases similar to "Where are you?" and "Here I am.." The Red-eyed Vireo sings the song at a fast tempo. A similar vireo found in northern Georgia during the breeding season is the Blue-headed Vireo (formerly known as the Solitary Vireo). The Blue-headed Vireo song is much slower. The Blue-headed Vireo can also be distinguished by its prominent white eye ring and wing bars and its grayish-blue head and back.