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Black-capped Vireo


IUCN Conservation Status: Vulnerable

The smallest vireo that occurs regularly in the United States, the Black-capped Vireo inhabits low scrublands of Oklahoma, Texas, and northern Mexico. Habitat changes and nest parasitism by Brown-headed Cowbirds have caused Black-capped Vireo populations to vanish across much of the northern part of its historic range and it now is listed as Endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

At a GlanceHelp

Both Sexes
4.3 in
11 cm
7.1 in
18 cm
0.3–0.4 oz
8–10 g
Other Names
  • Viréo à tête noire (French)
  • Vireo de gorra negra, Vireo de antifaz (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • The Black-capped Vireo is the only vireo that is sexually dimorphic in plumage, where the male and female look different. It also is the only one in which the male takes two years to reach adult plumage.
  • Research shows that Black-capped Vireo songs draw from a repertoire of syllables about ten times larger than those of other vireos.
  • The oldest Black-capped Vireo was a male, at least 12 years old, when it was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Texas.



Low scrub, often on poor or eroded soils, or in areas at an early stage of succession.



Adult insects, insect larvae, and spiders.


Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
2–5 eggs
Egg Description
Smooth and white.
Condition at Hatching
Naked and pink, with eyes closed.
Nest Description

Open hanging cup, made of leaves, grasses, plant fiber, and animal silk, lined with fine grass.Nest often decorated with spider silk, cocoons, or bits of paper. Cup opening is narrower than nest itself; adult can sit inside nest with only bill and tail tip showing.

Nest Placement



Foliage Gleaner

Gleans from leaves, twigs, and branches. Sometimes hangs upside down or hovers while feeding.


status via IUCN


Black-capped Vireo are listed as Endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and are on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, which lists bird species that are at risk of becoming threatened or endangered without conservation action. The IUCN Red List lists them as Vulnerable. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 24,000, with 45% breeding in the U.S., and 100% spending some part of the year in Mexico. They are a U.S.-Canada Stewardship species and a Tri-national Concern species, and rate an 18 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. These birds are largely extirpated from their traditional breeding range in the United States. Cowbird parasitism is a major threat; cowbird removal efforts have evidently led to local increases in Black-capped Vireo populations. Destruction of suitable habitat through urban and suburban development and livestock grazing also have significantly contributed to the species' decline. Habitat maintenance and creation through prescribed burning and other manipulation are a high management priority.


Range Map Help

Black-capped Vireo Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings


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bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

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