GCBO's January Bird of the Month
White-eyed Vireo
by Mike Williams

The White-eyed Vireo, (Vireo grisus), is a relatively small, active, olive colored bird with a distinctive white iris. First described by Boddaert in 1783, there are currently 7 subspecies recognized with 2 occurring Texas, (grisus and micrus).

The White-eyed Vireos’ range runs from the North-Eastern US through to Mexico in summer, and into Central America and Cuba in Winter. It is found all year along the Atlantic and Gulf Coast from North Carolina to Northern Mexico, although it is much less common north of Mexico in winter. It is found all year along the Atlantic and Gulf Coast from North Carolina to Northern Mexico. Its preferred breeding habitat is woodlands, thickets, cypress swamps and sometimes even City parks often provide suitable habitat. In Winter, the White-eyed Vireo is more likely found in scrublands and brushy fields.

White-eyed Vireos are insectivorous, and insects and spiders are their main diet. They will also eat small lizards and, when food is scarce, seeds and berries.


A small, active bird typically olive-gray above and light gray to white below. It has bright yellow “spectacles” and yellow flanks. The wings are dark olive to black with two distinctive white wing bars. Note the primaries have diagnostic yellow edging. Its call is a harsh tick or a mewing sound and its song an abrasive “quick with the beer”!

The vireo lays 3-5 eggs which are white spotted brown or black. The nest is typically low to the ground and the incubation period is 12-16 days, usually carried out by both parents.

Interesting Facts:

•The White-eyed Vireo is only one of 2 perching birds in the US that has a white eye – the other being the Wrentit.

•The fossil record for vireos is very limited -the only bone being a White-eyed Vireo wing-bone.

Vireos are a prime and preferred target of Brown-headed Cowbirds parasitizing their nest, leaving their eggs to be raised by the vireos. 

•A group of Vireos is known as a Call.

•The White-eyed is of Least Concern but its breeding range is contracting Southwards. However, the Cubensis subspecies, a native of the Cayman Islands, is critically endangered and there are currently less than a hundred individuals.

To download Mike Williams's photo of this cool bird, click HERE

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