Warbling Vireo's lively song atones for dull appearance | Words on Birds | Pike's Peak Courier - petsitterbank

Warbling Vireo’s lively song atones for dull appearance | Words on Birds | Pike’s Peak Courier

Late spring and early summer is the time to train the ear to birdsong. Many songs fill the air, but the inconspicuous warbling Vireo stands out with its long-winded and tireless singing that often extends into the afternoon when other singers have called it a day.

They will even sing from their well-hidden nests! Their singing also extends into early August, farther into the breeding season than other songsters, but they’re still not done. Their irritated and buzzy wrong-like calls can still be heard into late August. Warbling Vireos are common in Teller County, and typically arrive in mid-May and tend to leave the area by mid-September.

Vireos are stout sparrow-sized birds. As compared to warblers, their beaks are thicker and plumage duller. They also move more slowly than warblers, lazily foraging along branches for insects. Species identification is helped by the presence or absence of features like wing bars and eye markings.

Vireos are seen alone or in pairs and the other vireo likely to be seen locally is the Plumbeous Vireo.

The warbling Vireo’s vocal nature is a blessing, for a more plain and boring appearance among birds is hard to find. In fact their most distinguishing feature is that they really don’t have any distinguishing features. Their body is solid gray (paler below) and lacks any wing bars or unique eye markings. Their head does have a pale eye stripe above the black eye and the beak is a bit on the thick side, yet less so than other vireos. Note that some individuals may faintly display some green on the back and yellow on the flanks.

The song of the Warbling Vireo is its most attractive feature, a rapid warbling series of husky notes that see-saw back and forth in pitch. Each phrase ends alternately with a lower then higher pitched note. The phrase ending with the higher pitched note sounds like it’s asking a question, resembling how people’s voices lilt upward at the end of a query.

Warbling Vireos are most abundant in aspen woodlands, but can also be found in coniferous forest mixed with deciduous woodland, riparian woodlands, shrubby areas and willow shrublands- up to about 10,500 feet. During migration they can show up in any type of deciduous woodland or shrubby area. They mostly feed on insects, but will also consume occasional spiders, snails and berries.

Notable reports in May from the Woodland Park Yard Area (FOS = First of Season for returning migrants):

Mourning Dove — FOS on May 25, singing

Band-tailed Pigeon — flock of 5 on May 23, third yard sighting

Cordilleran Flycatcher — FOS on May 27, singing

Western Wood-Pewee — FOS on May 18, singing

Barn Swallow — FOS on May 15

Warbling Vireo — FOS on May 25, singing

Clark’s Nutcracker — one on May 25 and 29

Ruby-crowned Kinglet — one on May 2, singing

Hermit Thrush — FOS on May 25, singing

Western Tanager — FOS on May 14, one around most of the time, singing

Yellow-rumped Warbler — a few sightings, FOS on May 3, singing

Black-headed Grosbeak — FOS on May 19, a few around most of the time, singing

Chipping Sparrow — one or two around some of the time, singing

Vesper Sparrow — FOS on May 8, a couple sightings, singing

Brown-headed Cowbird — FOS on May 14, a few around some of the time, singing

American Goldfinch — one on May 18, singing

Joe LaFleur studied biology and communications at Colorado wildlife State University and is the creator of “Better Birdwatching,” a DVD series on North American birds. Contact him with questions and feedback at joe@betterbirdwatching.com.


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