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red-eyed vireo

red-eyed vireo (Vireo olivaceus)
Photo © Alan Murphy Photography

Features and Behaviors

The red-eyed vireo averages six inches in length. A white stripe bordered by black is present over each eye. This bird has a gray-feathered cap on its head. The back feathers are olive-green, and the belly feathers are light with a gray wash. The iris of the eye is red in adults and brown in immature birds of this species.

The red-eyed vireo is an abundant migrant and summer resident statewide. It winters in South America in the Amazon basin. Spring migrants begin arriving in Illinois in mid-April. Nesting occurs in early spring. The nest is cup-shaped and suspended in the fork of a tree branch from two to 60 feet above the ground. The nest is built of bark, rootlets, paper, grasses and other plant materials and is covered on the outside with spider webs and lichens. The female builds the nest in about five days. Three to five speckled, white eggs are laid by the female, and she does most of the incubation over the 12- to 14-day incubation period. Usually one brood per year is raised. Nests are often parasitized by the brown-headed cowbird that deposits an egg that the red-eyed vireo will hatch and raise, taking food and care away from its own young. Fall migration begins in August. This bird lives in upland and bottomland forests, parks and cemeteries. Its song is composed of short phrases that are separated by pauses and repeated often. It eats insects and fruits.

Illinois Range


​Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Vireonidae

Illinois Status: common, native