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Blue-headed Vireo

Vireo solitarius

Length: 5.25 inches Wingspan: 8.5 inches Seasonality: Migrant
ID Keys: White "spectacles", two white wing-bars, bluish-gray head, white throat and undersides, olive-green  back.

Blue-headed Vireo - Vireo solitariusThe Blue-headed Vireo, the Cassin's Vireo, and the Plumbeous Vireo were all considered one species, the Solitary Vireo, until the 1990's.  The Blue-headed is the eastern component of the three, migrating throughout the eastern half of the United States to it's summer destinations in the northeastern U.S. and Canada. In South Dakota, they're the one of the three species that is found in the eastern half of the state as they migrate through in both the spring and the fall. The Plumbeous Vireo (a grayish, less colorful species) is found in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  


Blue-headed Vireos use open mixed forests during the summer breeding season. They are the only species of vireo in most of North America that will nest and frequently use conifer/evergreen forests. They area also found in open forests and woodlands during migration and in winter.


Primarily feeds on insects and spiders.  They will also consume fruits and berries, especially during the winter months.


Primarily forages in the upper portion of trees.  They will sometimes observe from a perch and flycatch, flying out to catch passing insects, or clamber along major branches and tree trunks in search of prey.


Non-breeder in South Dakota. In breeding range, the nest is a cup made of grasses, weeds, roots, and moss, lined with downy plant material or animal hair.  The female lays 3 to 5 eggs, which are incubated by both parents.  Upon hatching, both parents tend to the young, who leave the nest after about 2 weeks.


Melodic "vireo-like" phrases, slower in pace than other vireo species and with distinct pauses in between each phrase.  Blue-headed Vireos also have a chattering, scolding call given in alarm or in defense of a nest site.


Summers in central through southeastern Canada, the Great Lakes Region, New England, and southward through the Appalachians.  Winters near the Gulf and Atlantic coasts in the Southeastern United States, as well as Mexico and Central America. 

Interactive eBird Map:

Click to access an interactive eBird map of Blue-headed Vireo sightings

Similar Species:

Vireo species can be confusing and Blue-headed Vireo could potentially be confused with the following species:

Cassin's Vireo - Vireo cassinii Plumbeous Vireo - Vireo plumbeus Bell's Vireo - Vireo bellii Warbling Vireo - Vireo gilvus
Cassin's Vireo Plumbeous Vireo Bell's Vireo Warbling Vireo

Conservation Status:

They are quite frequent hosts to cowbird parasitism, and habitat fragmentation makes them more susceptible. However, systematic surveys show substantial population increases over recent decades. They are found across a broad geographic area, and are common in parts of that range. The IUCN lists the Blue-headed Vireo as a species of "Least Concern."

Further Information:

Photo Information:

September 2nd, 2012 - Minnehaha County, South Dakota - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos:

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

Audio File Credits:

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Blue-headed Vireo - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Uncommon migrant throughout the state.

Additional Blue-headed Vireo Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
Blue-headed Vireo 1 - Vireo solitarius
Blue-headed Vireo 2 - Vireo solitariusBlue-headed Vireo 3 - Vireo solitariusBlue-headed Vireo 4 - Vireo solitariusBlue-headed Vireo 5 - Vireo solitariusBlue-headed Vireo 6 - Vireo solitariusBlue-headed Vireo 7 - Vireo solitariusBlue-headed Vireo 8 - Vireo solitariusBlue-headed Vireo 9 - Vireo solitariusBlue-headed Vireo 10 - Vireo solitarius