Friday, June 18, 2010

Red-eyed Vireo


All day Red-eyed Vireos sing, lazily whistling questions and  answering them.  An alternative name for this vireo is Preacher Bird, but "the song’s unending and monotonous character prompted Bradford Torrey in 1889 to reflect wryly, 'I have always thought that whoever dubbed this vireo the ‘preacher’ could have had no very exalted opinion of the clergy.'"  Click to hear the song, which can be heard from the treetops across much of North America.  Indeed, this species may be one of the most common birds of the eastern forests. The bird in the photo is an adult.  Age is ascertained by eye color.  This bird's eye is reddish.  Young birds have flat-brown eyes.  I will try to get a photo for you this fall.

Traditionally vireos were thought to be closely related to warblers, the vireos differing by their hooked beaks, more sedate feeding habits, and usually duller plumages.  The hook allows vireos to capture larger prey items than do warblers.  Recently, however, DNA researchers discovered that warblers and vireos are not closely related.   Vireos are genetically much more closely allied to crows,  shrikes, and a group of ancient songbirds that probably originated in Australia!  As a result, in their bird books, birders now find vireos towards the beginning of the songbirds rather than towards the end near the warblers.

The quote above is from Cimprich, David A., Frank R. Moore and Michael P. Guilfoyle. 2000. Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu.bnaproxy.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/527

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