People passionate about nature

Red-eyed Vireo

Above: Red-eyed Vireo in a bur oak tree at Pinawa; by Peter Taylor

How do I recognize it?

Vireos are small songbirds, slightly more heavily built, thicker billed, and slower moving than wood-warblers. The Red-eyed Vireo is olive-green above and mostly whitish below, with a grey cap and bold facial stripes. The eye (iris) colour is only obvious at close range in strong sunlight, varying with age from brown in juveniles through deep maroon to brighter red in breeding adults.


Above: This Red-eyed Vireo was attracted to its “rival” reflection in a house window; by Peter Taylor

Does it migrate?

Red-eyed Vireos are present in Manitoba from late May to the first half of September. They are long-distance migrants, wintering in northern South America.


Above: Dense foliage often makes Red-eyed Vireos difficult to see; by Peter Taylor

Where does it live?

Red-eyed Vireos inhabit deciduous and mixed woodland, including urban parks and gardens. They sing and forage mainly in the canopy but often nest in the understory, close to eye level and often surprisingly close to a trail or woodland edge. The nest is a robust, woven basket suspended from a fork in a slender branch. The male’s song is a long series of short, inflected phrases, persisting throughout the day for much of the summer. It may be the only sound in the woods on a sultry afternoon.


Above: Red-eyed Vireo on its nest in Lagimodière-Gaboury Park, St. Boniface; by Peter Taylor

Where can I see it?

In Manitoba, Red-eyed Vireos are most abundant in the aspen parkland and southern boreal forest, becoming scarce in sparsely treed agricultural areas, and petering out in conifer-dominated, far-northern portions of the boreal forest.


Above: This Red-eyed Vireo looks fierce as it continues to battle its reflection; by Peter Taylor

Conservation Status:

Its large numbers and wide range across much of Canada and the U.S.A. make the Red-eyed Vireo seem secure at present. The Manitoba population appears to be increasing.


Above: This Red-eyed Vireo had just fed a fledgling Brown-headed Cowbird (top centre) in Whittier Park, St. Boniface; by Peter Taylor

Did you know:

In common with many small songbirds, the Red-eyed Vireo is often parasitized by Brown-headed Cowbirds. Depositing their eggs in other birds’ nests, the cowbirds leave all parenting duties to the unfortunate host species, which often loses its own young in the process.

Written by Peter Taylor