This small songbird is a common sight among the leafy woodlands of North America during the spring and summer months. It is noteworthy for its ruby-red irises and persistent singing.  

Physical Description

Red-eyed vireos have olive-green upperparts and a creamy white chest and belly. The top of the head is slate gray with a black stripe eyestripe bordered by white. The bill is pointed. Juveniles have brown irises, while adults have red irises. They have stocky bodies, bluish-gray legs and relatively short tails. 


Adults are 4.7-5.1 inches (12–13 centimeters) long, and weigh between 0.4-0.9 ounces (12-26 grams). Their wingspan is about 9.1-9.8 inches (23–25 centimeters) long.

Native Habitat

Red-eyed vireos live in deciduous and mixed forests, particularly near small canopy openings. Sometimes they inhabits residential areas that have enough large trees. During fall migration, they stop in Gulf Coast pine forests. In the winter they inhabit a variety of areas, from lowland tropical forests to gardens with scattered trees. 


Red-eyed vireos are noteworthy for their large vocabulary of short songs, which they sing tirelessly from the treetops during the nesting season. 

Food/Eating Habits

Red-eyed vireos eat mainly insects during the spring and summer months. They eat more seeds and berries during the fall to give them enough energy for their long migratory flight. In their South American wintering range, they include more fruit in their diets.

Reproduction and Development

Males arrive at the breeding grounds about one week ahead of females, claiming their territory through song and driving away other males until a potential mate arrives. They sing for hours on end during this time.

After a nest site is chosen, females weave together a cup-shaped nest out of twigs, grasses, and other plant material, and it is placed between the fork of two tree branches. Females lay between three and five eggs, which hatch after about 11-14 days of incubation. After hatching, the chicks are fed by both parents until they are ready leave the nest.

Conservation Efforts

Their population is currently stable, although they are at risk for habitat degradation and loss in their winter range.

Like many species, their nests are occasionally parasitized by brown-headed cowbirds. In nest parasitism, the parasite species will lay eggs in the hosts' nests when the parents are absent. After hatching, the parents will feed and care for the cowbird babies as if they were their own, often at the expense of the hosts' babies.

Help this Species

  • Be a smart consumer. Choose products made with sustainable ingredients, such as Smithsonian certified Bird Friendly coffees, which support farmers striving to limit their impact on wildlife and habitat.
  • Practice ecotourism by being an advocate for the environment when you’re on vacation. During your travels, support, visit or volunteer with organizations that protect wildlife. Shop smart too! Avoid buying products made from animals, which could support poaching and the illegal wildlife trade.
  • Be a responsible cat owner, and keep cats indoors or under restraint when outside. Never release animals that have been kept as pets into the wild.
  • Conservation starts with you! Join a citizen science project, such as FrogWatch or Neighborhood Nestwatch, where you can help collect valuable data for scientists. Encourage your friends and family to get involved too.
  • Plant native flowers in your garden to help feed resident and migrating pollinators. You'll make your lawn beautiful and help wildlife at the same time!

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