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Gray Vireo

Vireo vicinior

Length: 5.5 inches Wingspan: 8 inches Seasonality: Non-resident in South Dakota
ID Keys:  Gray overall, white eye ring, underparts lighter, pale lores, very weak wingbar

Gray Vireo - Vireo viciniorThe Gray Vireo is a rather nondescript vireo species of the southwestern United States.  They have a gray overall plumage without any strongly contrasting plumage features, although a complete white eye-ring is usually relatively obvious.  They are mostly found in arid shrublands, where they can be found actively moving through the foliage of shrubs and brush, searching for insects. Unlike most other vireo species, they will also sometimes feed directly on the ground as they search for insects.


Found in a variety of dry, brushy habitats, including areas of chaparral, pinyon-juniper shrublands, or sagebrush and mesquite habitats. The preference is typically for areas of very dense vegetation.


Feeds heavily on insects and spiders, but will also feed on berries, particularly during the winter months.


Forages by climbing and flitting through the foliage of shrubs and brush, searching for insects.  They will also sometimes forage on the ground. They often flick their tail as they move about and forage, a movement not typically seen in vireos, and more often seen in Gnatcatchers, potentially causing identification confusion with those birds.


The nest of a Gray Vireo is a small cup built of grasses, weed stems, bark fibers, leaves, and spider webs, placed in the fork of a small branch.  The female lays between 3 and 5 eggs, and both parents help to incubate them.  When the eggs hatch, both parents help to feed the young.  The young leave the nest after about 2 weeks. Gray Vireos may raise more than one brood per summer breeding season.


The song of a Gray Vireo is a deliberate series of musical phrases, chee-ree, chee-roo, generally with deliberate pauses in between the phrases.  Contact calls and alarm calls are harsh or buzzy notes.


Migratory, but only moving short distances.  Birds that summer in the United States mostly winter in northwestern Mexico, although some can be found in southern Arizona and southwest Texas.

Interactive eBird Map:

Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Gray Vireo sightings

Similar Species:

Gray's Vireo could be confused with other grayish vireo species in their range, or other small gray songbirds. Here are the species most likely to be confused with Gray Vireos:

Bell's Vireo - Vireo bellii  Plumbeous Vireo 1 - Vireo plumbeus  Gray Flycatcher - Empidonax wrightii  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 10 - Polioptila caerulea
Bell's Vireo Plumbeous Vireo Gray Flycatcher Blue-Gray-Gnatcatcher

Conservation Status:

Gray Vireos are relatively common in parts of their range, and systematic surveys in recent decades indicate overall populations may be increasing.  The IUCN lists the Gray Vireo as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information:

Photo Information:

Photo taken by "seabamirum" - Photo licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

Audio File Credits:

Click below for a higher-resolution map
Gray Vireo - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Non-resident in South Dakota