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Hutton's Vireo Life History



Through its large and fragmented range, Hutton’s Vireo favors sizable (> 50-acre) coniferous, oak, and mixed forests, but in some areas it also inhabits stream corridors and chaparral. Its habitats range from seaside forests to montane forests above 11,800 feet in elevation, from British Columbia to Guatemala. In the Pacific Northwest, Hutton’s Vireos use spruce, hemlock, western redcedar, Douglas-fir, live oak, and other evergreen oak species. In California, they use redwood, fir, incense cedar, Pacific madrone, cypress, tanoak, Monterey pine, Bishop pine, ponderosa pine, and gray pine. In the southwestern U.S., Mexico, and Guatemala, Hutton’s live in pine, fir, pine-oak, and pine-oak-juniper forests.

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Hutton’s Vireos move slowly and deliberately through foliage in search of food, mostly insects and spiders. In most parts of the range, they forage within the tree foliage, fairly high in the tree, and also investigate the tips of branches. They take prey from branches and leaves, picking them quickly as they move along a branch, or hovering or hanging upside-down to glean them from the tips of leaves or needle clusters. They chase and fly after flying insects as well. Their known prey items include assassin bugs, stinkbugs, leaf bugs, leafhoppers, planthoppers, scale insects, lady beetles, weevils, and caterpillars. Plant matter in their diet includes berries of buckthorn, poison oak, and elderberry as well as sap from sapsucker wells.

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Nest Placement


Female probably selects the nest site, usually within the forest interior, in a fork of twigs near the end of a branch and often completely hidden by overhanging foliage or lichen. Most nests are in oak or conifers, sometimes in manzanita, at an average of 16 feet above the ground.

Nest Description

Male and female work together to build a cup nest suspended from a forked branch, with the exterior heavily draped with mosses, lichens, grasses, spider cocoons, feathers, leaves, bark, and string, all held together with spiderweb. Nests are roughly 3 inches across, with interior cup about 2.5 inches across and 2 inches deep.

Nesting Facts

Clutch Size:1-5 eggs
Number of Broods:1 brood
Egg Length:0.7-0.8 in (1.7-1.91 cm)
Egg Width:0.5-0.6 in (1.28-1.39 cm)
Incubation Period:14-16 days
Egg Description:White with a few small brown dots.
Condition at Hatching:

Eyes closed, naked, and pinkish.

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Foliage Gleaner

Hutton’s Vireos often appear in twos, even in fall and winter, when they accompany mixed-species flocks of kinglets, bushtits, titmice, chickadees, nuthatches, warblers, and woodpeckers. This suggests that some pairs remain together year-round. The courtship display, seldom seen, involves the male spreading the tail, fluffing the body plumage, and giving a nasal call. Males begin to sing in spring, to mark territory and attract a mate or stimulate nesting activities in a long-term mate. At this season, both male and female are territorial and chase other Hutton’s Vireos from the territory. They may also attack other vireo species that come too near the nest. When agitated, they flick their wings quickly, in a manner very similar to Ruby-crowned Kinglets. Territory size ranges from about 1.7 to 7.2 acres. Male and female remain close together when nesting, often calling back and forth. Both birds incubate the eggs and feed the nestlings.

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Low Concern

According to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, Hutton’s Vireo populations increased by about 1.3% per year between 1966 and 2015. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 2.7 million and ranks the species a 9 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, indicating a species of low conservation concern. Selective logging reduces populations of this species, as do other forms of habitat modification and degradation, including diseases such as sudden oak death, which is caused by a fungus.

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Davis, Jeff N. (1995). Hutton's Vireo (Vireo huttoni), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Dunne, P. (2006). Pete Dunne's essential field guide companion. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, USA.

Lutmerding, J. A., and A. S. Love (2017). Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2017.1. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory, Laurel, MD, USA.

Partners in Flight (2017). Avian Conservation Assessment Database. 2017.

Sauer, J. R., D. K. Niven, J. E. Hines, D. J. Ziolkowski Jr., K. L. Pardieck, J. E. Fallon, and W. A. Link (2017). The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966–2015. Version 2.07.2017. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD, USA.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.

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