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Yellow-throated Vireo Life History


Open Woodlands

Yellow-throated Vireos breed in deciduous or mixed-deciduous forests, tending to avoid stands of pure coniferous trees. Within deciduous forests they often occur near edges or in forest gaps. Despite this association, they only seem to breed in regions with extensive forest cover and are less abundant in forests less than 250 acres. During migration they occur in woodlands, edges, and shrubby areas along barrier beaches. On the wintering grounds they use dry tropical forest, coffee plantations, pine-oak forest, thorn scrub, and rainforest up to 6,000 feet elevation.

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Yellow-throated Vireos primarily eat insects and spiders such as butterflies, moths, stinkbugs, scale insects, leafhoppers, beetles, flies, and bees. They also eat fruits and seeds on occasion. They forage in the middle and upper levels in the forest, slowly hopping between branches and picking insects from bare branches and foliage.

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Nest Placement


Before finding a mate, males search for a spot to build a nest. They place a few pieces of material in several potential spots. When the female arrives she chooses where to put the nest, either selecting one of the male's locations or a new one. The nest is typically in the canopy of a tree near the forest's edge 20 to 50 feet above the ground.

Nest Description

Males start building the nest, handing more and more duties over to the female after day 1. The nest is a cup suspended from a fork of small branches in a tree. It is made of bark strips, dry grasses, rootlets, long pine needles, leaves, or hair, held together with insect silk and spiderweb.

Nesting Facts

Clutch Size:3-5 eggs
Number of Broods:1 brood
Egg Length:0.7-0.9 in (1.8-2.3 cm)
Egg Width:0.5-0.6 in (1.3-1.6 cm)
Incubation Period:13 days
Nestling Period:13 days
Egg Description:Creamy white with sparse dark spots around larger end.
Condition at Hatching:

Mostly naked with tufts of down; eyes closed.

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Foliage Gleaner

Yellow-throated Vireos slowly hop between branches, often focusing on the interior parts of the canopy with sturdy, bare branches. They tend to forage for insects more often on bare branches than other vireos and forage in a less frenzied manner. Males arrive on the breeding grounds a few days before females and start setting up their territory. They put a bit of nesting material in a few spots throughout the territory that could make good nest sites. When the females arrive, they sing and act as if they are building a nest from these spots. Males display for females; swaying side to side while singing and fluffing up their feathers. Once paired, males stick close to their female until she begins laying. As soon as the chicks leave the nest, the pair separates. They generally don't interact with other Yellow-throated Vireos after nesting, but they sometimes forage with warblers, chickadees, and titmice during migration. Individuals also occasionally join mixed-species foraging flocks on the wintering grounds.

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Low Concern

Yellow-throated Vireos are common and their populations increased by 62% between 1970 and 2014, according to Partners in Flight, which estimates the global breeding population at 4.4 million. The species rates a 9 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. In the early twentieth century Yellow-throated Vireos seemingly disappeared from towns and suburbs in the northeastern United States, which some believe was due to the spraying of insecticides to control Dutch elm disease. Since then, populations have increased possibly due to regrowth of woodlands that were previously logged.

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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.

Rodewald, Paul G. and Ross D. James. (2011). Yellow-throated Vireo (Vireo flavifrons), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, 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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