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Warbling Vireo

Vireo gilvus

Length: 5.25 inches Wingspan: 8.75 inches Seasonality: Summer
ID Keys: Gray overall, with darker upperparts and lighter underparts, sometimes with a wash of yellow (particularly in the spring).  White eyebrow.

Warbling Vireo - Vireo gilvus The Warbling Vireo is a relatively plain looking bird with a musical warbling song.  They are often found high in the treetops, and may be known by song more than by appearance for many people.  They can be found across much of North America, including South Dakota, where they are not only found during spring and fall migration, but are common summer breeding birds across the state..  The eastern and western birds sing slightly different songs, leading some to believe they should be classified as separate species, but they are virtually identical in appearance, with western US birds being slightly less colorful than eastern US birds.


Uses open deciduous or mixed forest during the summer breeding season, especially along woodland edges and clearings.  They can also be found in isolated groves of trees in otherwise largely unforested land, such as farmsteads and shelterbelts, riparian areas, and suburban settings.  They winter in open woods in the tropics. 


Primarily feeds on insects in all seasons.  Will also eat spiders, snails, fruits, and berries.


Forages by moving briskly through foliage and gleaning insects from leaves and branches.  They will also sometimes hover to glean insects.


Late May through mid-July.  The nest of a Warbling Vireo is a cup of grasses, sedges, strips of bark, leaves, and other plant material, placed in the fork of a tree.  The female lays between 3 and 5 eggs, and both parents help to incubate them.  When the eggs hatch, both parents help to feed the young. The young fledge after about 2 weeks.


A fast musical warbling, with a high degree of variability (even from the same bird). Warbling Vireos also have a variety of calls, including a harsh scolding or alarm call, and other shorter, crisp notes.


Summers throughout most of the continental United States except for portions of the South, also in much of western Canada.  Winters in Mexico and points south. In South Dakota they are found in migration, but also as summer breeding residents throughout the state.

Interactive eBird map:

Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Warbling Vireo sightings

Similar Species:

Warbling Vireos may potentially be confused with multiple other vireos that can be found in South Dakota.

Philadelphia Vireo - Vireo philadelphicus Bell's Vireo 5 - Vireo bellii Bell's Vireo 11 - Vireo bellii Red-eyed Vireo - Vireo olivaceus
Philadelphia Vireo Bell's Vireo Bell's Vireo Red-eyed Vireo

Conservation Status: Numbers of Warbling Vireo are probably greater than before European settlement of North America, due to the vast increases in "edge" habitat created through fragmentation and clearing of forest land. Systematic surveys in recent decades show generally stable trends, with increases in some areas. They are found across a very broad geographic area, are common in parts of that range, and have high overall numbers. The IUCN lists the Warbling Vireo as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information:

Photo Information:

September 5th, 2011 - Minnehaha County, South Dakota - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos:

Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Warbling Vireo photos.

Audio File Credits:

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Warbling Vireo - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common summer breeding resident throughout the state.

Additional Warbling Vireo Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
 Warbling Vireo 1 - Vireo gilvusWarbling Vireo 2 - Vireo gilvusWarbling Vireo 3 - Vireo gilvusWarbling Vireo 4 - Vireo gilvusWarbling Vireo 5 - Vireo gilvusWarbling Vireo 6 - Vireo gilvusWarbling Vireo 7 - Vireo gilvusWarbling Vireo 8 - Vireo gilvusWarbling Vireo 9 - Vireo gilvusWarbling Vireo 10 - Vireo gilvusWarbling Vireo 11 - Vireo gilvusWarbling Vireo 12 - Vireo gilvusWarbling Vireo 13 - Vireo gilvusWarbling Vireo 14 - Vireo gilvusWarbling Vireo 15 - Vireo gilvus