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White-eyed vireo easier to hear than to see

By Taylor PiephoffBy Taylor Piephoff
Taylor Piephoff
Taylor Piephoff writes on birding in the Piedmont.

I always feel like spring is here to stay once the white-eyed vireos arrive. I have been hearing lots of them lately. These small birds are among the earliest of the returning nesting birds, often showing up around April 1.

I say I have been hearing them because they are much easier to hear than to see. Though they typically inhabit low thickets and brush, particularly rose thickets, they prefer to stay out of sight. Their constant singing lets you know they are there.

It is not a typical bird song. It is not musical at all; rather it consists of harsh, burry phrases interspersed with clicks and chips. It is loud and rapid, unusual enough to attract even the attention of nonbirders. The song is variable and may even include some imitated portions of other bird songs, particularly those of Carolina chickadees. It has been described as saying, “Hey, come quick and catch the fever.”

I hear and see them often along Six-Mile Creek Greenway and Four-Mile Creek Greenway.

If you learn to recognize their song and calls and wait patiently, you might be able to catch a good glimpse.

True to their name, these small birds have white eye irises, an unusual color in songbirds. The upper parts are greenish, the under parts whitish with varying amounts of yellow on the sides and flanks. Cream-colored bars cross the folded wings. There is a bright yellow spot between the eye and bill on the adult birds.

They really are attractive birds, but it can be difficult to get one in your binoculars long enough to study it.

Taylor Piephoff is a local naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont: PiephoffT@aol.com.
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