The Wood Folk Diaries: Volume 2, Chapter 14: Meet the Vireos Ft. Red-eyed Vireo

Dear Wood Folk,

The vireo I see most around Haliburton county is the red-eyed (vireo olivaceus). I usually see the blue-headed vireo a couple times per year too. (Here are both in one of our Instagram posts!) iNat sightings here mirror this frequency. As I write this, one person besides myself has spotted and reported a Philadelphia vireo here (linked to my iNat entry).

I often follow what I think is a different bird song and it ends up being a red-eyed vireo. These vireos sing all day long. 12,500 Different song types have been recorded. This singer-songwriter landed right in front of me:

Red-eyed Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo

Red-eyed Vireo Plant Allies

Red-eyed vireos nest deeper in the deciduous and mixed woods than other species we’ve covered so far, favoring woods with shrubby understory like eastern leatherwood and many saplings. I usually see them zooming from tree canopy to canopy on the forest edges, or in the shrubbery near their nesting site along deep dark forest trails.

The female builds a nest in a fork in a horizontal branch of a tree or shrub, usually picking a spot concealed by leaves. She weaves together a small hanging cup of strips of bark, grasses and weeds, plant fibers, twigs, and even paper from wasp nests. She uses sticky plant fibers, spider webs and sometimes their sticky egg or cocoon cases to adhere it all together. She lines it with grass, pine needles, and sometimes animal hairs.

Red-eyed vireos eat mostly insects during summer months, especially caterpillars. But as autumn approaches they increase their fruit consumption, noming on blackberries, black cherry (pictured below) and other cherries, dogwoods, elderberries, mulberries, serviceberries, staghorn sumac, Virginia creeper, and wild grape. Spicebush too, in southern Ontario. After they head down to the Amazon they eat mostly fruit.

Red-eyed Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo

Attracting Red-eyed Vireo

For the likes of chickadees and red-eyed vireos, you need a caterpillar friendly yard. Attract moths and butterflies with their native host plants. Let the birds control tent caterpillars et al – the types of cats people sometimes remove thinking they are unsightly. All the fruiting trees and shrubs mentioned above are attractive too.

If you have a space transitioning to woods, plant some maple and oak (you can likely find saplings popping up in driveways and other places they’d need moved from) and understory shrubs like leatherwood.

Next month’s diary is the intro to pollinators and their host plants! While I’m a bird lover and it’s been fun sharing local birds, I look forward to the change up. Hope you will too!

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