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White-eyed Vireo Life History



White-eyed Vireos frequent scrubby areas year-round including overgrown pastures, forested edges, streamside thickets, second-growth forests, and bramble-filled fields. In Florida, they also use mangroves.

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White-eyed Vireos eat caterpillars, flies, beetles, moths, butterflies, leafhoppers, lacewings, and spiders. They forage in a rather deliberate manner, slowly hopping along and looking around before grabbing something to eat. They swallow smaller items on the spot, but pin down larger prey with their foot before eating it. During the nonbreeding season, they also eat fruit from sumac, dogwood, poison ivy, pokeweed, and wax myrtle, as well as tropical fruits from Bursera trees.

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Nest Placement


Females test out potential nest spots by sitting and twisting between small branches that form a horizontal fork. They generally choose a Y-shaped fork in a shrub around 2–6 feet above the ground.

Nest Description

Males and females build a pendulous nest suspended from a Y-shaped fork. They collect insect silk and spiderweb and attach it to the fork until it makes a lacy shell. They then stick leaves, bark, plant fibers, rootlets, and bits of paper to the spiderweb shell. They also stick lichens, moss, or leaves to the outside for additional camouflage. The female lines the nest with rootlets, fine grass, or hair. It takes the pair around 3–5 days to complete the nest.

Nesting Facts

Clutch Size:3-5 eggs
Number of Broods:1-2 broods
Egg Length:0.7-0.8 in (1.7-2.1 cm)
Egg Width:0.5-0.6 in (1.2-1.5 cm)
Incubation Period:13-15 days
Nestling Period:9-11 days
Egg Description:White with sparse spotting.
Condition at Hatching:

Naked with eyes closed.

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Foliage Gleaner

White-eyed Vireos hop among branches and make short flights between shrubs, making sure to stay well hidden in the process. Males sing from the edges of understory vegetation all day long, even during the heat of the day. Males defend their territories against intruding males with wing flicking, fluffing, and sleeking their feathers as well as by pecking at their perch or feet. Courtship begins soon after the females arrive and pairs maintain their monogamous bond during the breeding season. They tend to return to the same breeding area year after year, but not always with the same mate. Like other vireos, males and females both incubate the eggs and contribute to feeding nestlings. Despite this biparental care, many White-eyed Vireo nests are parasitized by Brown-headed Cowbirds. They lay one or more eggs in a vireo's nest leaving parenting up to the vireo, whose own young don't survive.

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Low Concern

White-eyed Vireos are common and their populations increased by 33% between 1970 and 2014, according to Partners in Flight. The estimated global breeding population is 21 million. The species rates an 8 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, which means it is not on the Partners in Flight Watch List and is a species of low conservation concern.

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

Hopp, Steven L., Alice Kirby and Carol A. Boone. (1995). White-eyed Vireo (Vireo griseus), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love (2016). Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2016.1. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory, Laurel, MD, USA.

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

Pieplow, N. (2017). Peterson Field Guide to Bird Sounds of Eastern North America. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, NY, USA.

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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