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White-eyed Vireo

Vireo griseus

Length: 5 inches Wingspan: 8 inches Seasonality: Rare Migrant
ID Keys: White eyes with yellow "spectacles", two white wing-bars, olive-gray upperparts, lighter gray below.

White-eyed Vireo - Vireo griseusThe White-eyed Vireo is a bird of dense undergrowth and shrubby areas of the eastern United States.  Their songs can be wildly variable, having been described as "quick-with-the-beer-check!", "chick-of-the-village", and "pick-up-a-reaaaal-chick!".  They also will occasionally mimic the songs of other birds.  Their range has varied wildly over the course of recorded history in the eastern United States.  For many years, they bred in Michigan and Wisconsin, but now generally remain south of those states.  They were once fairly common in Massachusetts, disappeared for a period of time, and then reappeared.  In South Dakota, they are but a very rare visitor, with a handful of records.


Uses a variety of shrubby low growth for breeding, including, forest edges, woodland undergrowth, overgrown pastures, and shrubby streamsides.  They also prefer shrubby habitats during migration and in winter.


During summer months, they feed almost exclusively on insects, especially caterpillars, moths, and butterflies.  They also will eat fruits, berries, snails, and small lizards and salamanders.


Climbs and flits through foliage and branches, gleaning insects as it moves. Will sometimes hover and glean insects from foliage. Compared to many other vireos and songbirds, they tend to forage relatively close to the ground, in thickets and shrubby forest undergrowth.


Non-breeder in South Dakota, with no confirmed breeding records in the state (although records do exist close to South Dakota). On their breeding grounds, White-eyed Vireos construct a cup-shape nest of leaves, grasses, rootlets, twigs, and other vegetative material, often covered with leaves, mosses, and lichens on the outside, and lined with fine grasses, hair, or rootlets on the inside. Spiderwebs are used to bind much of the nest together. Nest placement is low in a shrub or small tree, in the fork of a branch between 1 and 8 feet from the ground. The female lays between 3 and 5 eggs, with both the male and female helping to incubate them. The young hatch after about two weeks, and fledge from the nest after only 10-12 days.


Variable jumbled song, with musical and harsh notes interspersed, and often ending with sharp notes.  They are known mimics as well, sometimes mimicking the songs and calls of other bird species, which makes identification by voice alone sometimes difficult. Overall they are capable of an astonishing array of vocalizations.

1Click here to hear the call of a White-eyed Vireo, recorded in Port Canaveral, Florida

2Click here to hear the song of a White-eyed Vireo, recorded in Hidalgo County, Texas

3Click here to hear a song of a White-eyed Vireo, recorded in Bosque County, Texas. The original recorder noted he thought the song sounded like the vireo was trying to imitate a Carolina Wren.


Summers throughout much of the eastern United States, as far north as Iowa, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.  Winters in the extreme southeastern U.S., Mexico, and parts of the Caribbean.

Interactive eBird map:

Click here to access an interactive eBird map of White-eyed Vireo sightings

Similar Species:

If seen well, the distinctive eye and plumage pattern are conclusive for identification. However, they can be confused with multiple other vireo species

South Dakota "Hotspot"

Given the rarity of White-eyed Vireos in South Dakota (Less than a dozen sightings recorded in eBird as of 2019), there is no "hotspot" where a birder can reasonably expect to find a White-eyed Vireo. However, they have now been seen a couple of times at Newton Hills State Park, in the same location along the trail from the Horse Camp along Sergeant Creek.

Conservation Status:

Populations can fluctuate wildly at the northern end of their range, as there have been intermittent periods where they summer quite a bit further north than their current range.  However, overall, populations appear to be on the increase. They are common in parts of their range, and they are found over a broad geographic area. The IUCN considers the White-eyed Vireo to be a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information:

 1) WhatBird - White-eyed Vireo

2) Audubon Guide - White-eyed Vireo

Photo Information:

Photo taken on May 15th, 2019 at Newton Hills State Park in South Dakota - Terry Sohl

Audio File Credits:

1Paul Marvin, XC452047. Accessible at

2Paul Marvin, XC452765. Accessible at

3David Sarkozi, XC424513. Accessible at


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
White-eyed Vireo - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Rare migrant.

Additional White-eyed Vireo Photos
Click for larger full-res versions
 White-eyed Vireo 1 - Vireo griseusWhite-eyed Vireo 2 - Vireo griseusWhite-eyed Vireo 3 - Vireo griseus