Red-eyed Vireo

While hiking through the Kinghurst Forest Nature Reserve in Grey County this past July weekend, our tracking group heard several Red-eyed Vireos calling “Here I am! Where are you?” After reading more about these birds on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology site, I learned that male Red-eyed Vireos are “tireless songsters that can sing their song up to 20,000 times in one day”.  Our group continued to find some other Red-Eyed vireo treasures including a piece of an egg shell and a beautifully constructed nest with a baby vireo in it!*

*After reflecting on this photo, I began to question why there was only one bird in the nest.  I chatted with Ann (naturalist extraordinaire) and then decided to look up what a cowbird baby looks like.  This may in fact be a cowbird baby but I am unsure since the baby vireos look similar. Does anyone have any insight on baby cowbird identification?

Vireo nest and baby

This nest was about 7 feet high, in a forked branch of a large Maple tree.  It was located at the edge of a forest in a large, grassy field.  I found an excellent web-site called “Naturally Curious” that gives a great description of Red-eyed Vireo nests.  It confirmed for me that the nest was in fact most likely a Red-eyed Vireo. The site says that the female vireo collects nesting material for the three layers of her nest:

Exterior – tree bark, spider-egg cases, wasp-nest paper, lichen, green leaves and pine needles. (Nests exposed to sunlight may be decorated with light-colored tree bark such as birch bark.) Interior – bark strips and plant fibers. Inner lining – grasses, pine needles, plant fibers and animal hair. She then weaves these materials into a cup-shaped nest that is suspended from a forked branch by its rim. She may also use spider webbing to glue the materials together.*

*Naturally Curious, October 2013, viewed October 13, 2014. Retrieved from:

I learned that baby Red-Eyed Vireos are born with brown irises. The red iris that gives the Red-eyed Vireo its name doesn’t develop until the end of the birds’ first winter. (Cornell Lab of Ornithology*).  I searched images of baby birds on-line and this photo seems to match up best with Red-eyed Vireos.

*Red-Eyed Vireo, n.d., viewed October 13, 2014. Retrieved from:

Here is a photo of a piece of an eggshell that we found in the forest:

Vireo Egg Shell

After looking at bird eggs in Peterson’s Guide to Bird Nests, this egg most likely matches the description of Red-Eyed Vireo eggs. This bird shared a lot with us this past weekend and I didn’t even realize it until now – what a great little teacher!


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