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Plumbeous Vireo

Vireo plumbeus

Length: 5.25 inches Wingspan: 8.5 inches Seasonality: Summer / Migrant
ID Keys: White "spectacles", very gray with just a touch of color in fresh fall plumage, two white wing-bars.

Plumbeous Vireo - Vireo plumbeusThe Plumbeous, Blue-headed, and the Cassin's Vireo were all considered one species, the Solitary Vireo, until the 1990's.  The Plumbeous is the species of the three that summers in the mountain forests of the inland West.  It is much less colorful than the other two, appearing lead-gray in all but the freshest of fall plumage, when just a touch of yellow may be visible.  In South Dakota, they are primarily found in the Black Hills, with some sightings in other select locations of the far western part of the state.


Found in pine and pine-oak forests of the mountain West, sometimes at elevations approaching 10,000 feet. They also are found as breeding birds along some lower-elevation riparian areas in the intermountain West. Migrants will use a variety of habitats, but primarily forested areas that resemble the various areas they use during the summer breeding season.


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


Climbs through foliage and branches in search of insects, usually relatively high in the forest canopy.  They are rather deliberate in their foraging behavior, similar to other vireo species. Plumbeous Vireos will also  occasionally fly out from a perch to snag flying insects in mid-air.


Late May through July. Males arrive on the breeding grounds first, and start scoping out potential nesting sites. When females arrive, males try to lure them to a nesting location through a display that consists of fanning out the tail and wings and swaying in front of her. Nests themselves are a small cup, built of grasses, bits of bark, roots, and weedstems, lined with finer plant material, and often decorated with mosses and lichens. The female lays between 3 and 5 eggs, and both sexes help to incubate them. The young hatch after about two weeks, with both parents helping to feed them. The young fledge from the nest after 10 to 14 days, but the family unit still stays together for some time, foraging together until they depart for the fall migration.


Varied song musical phrases and less musical chattering, typically with deliberate pauses, often repeating.  Other calls include a harsh chattering alarm call.


Summers throughout pine and oak forests of the mountain West.  Winters in the extreme southwestern U.S., Mexico, and Central America. 

Interactive eBird Map:

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

Similar Species:

Plumbeous Vireo are similar in appearance to multiple other vireo species, particularly the Cassin's Vireo and Blue-headed Vireo, the two other species that were all once considered one species with the Plumbeous Vireo (the "Solitary Vireo).

Cassin's Vireo - Vireo cassinii Blue-headed Vireo 2 - Vireo solitarius Blue-headed Vireo 9 - Vireo solitarius Gray Vireo - Vireo vicinior
Cassin's Vireo Blue-headed Vireo Blue-headed Vireo Gray Vireo

Conservation Status:

They are quite frequent hosts to cowbird parasitism, but populations are considered stable, or perhaps even increasing. They are found in a relatively broad geographic area, and are common in parts of that range. The IUCN considers the Plumbeous Vireo to be a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information:

Photo Information:

Photo courtesy of Larry Burlingame.

Audio File Credits:

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Plumbeous Vireo - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Uncommon summer resident and migrant in the Black Hills.

Additional Plumbeous Vireo Photos
 Plumbeous Vireo 1 - Vireo plumbeusPlumbeous Vireo 2 - Vireo plumbeus