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Common Names in English:
Gray Vireo, Grey Vireo, gray greenlet
Common Names in French:
Common Names in German:
Common Names in Japanese:
Common Names in Spanish:
About 5.5-6 inches long, with a wingspan of 8.75 to 8.75 inches. Adults weigh about 0.5 ounces .
Gray Vireos are found in hot, arid
regions, most often associated
with juniper trees
), piñon pine (Pinus
edulis), or oak (Quercus spp.). Piñon-juniper savannahs
and woodlands often have high bird diversities, upwards of 150 species
over a calendar year; these systems
sufficient structural diversity
to provide a large number of opportunities for perching
and singing for many bird species like the Gray Vireo (Belsky 1996,
Buckman and Wolters 1987, Gashwiler 1977, Paulin et al.
species is also found in oak scrub
of the species was higher at lower elevations
on the Colorado Plateau
(Schlossberg 2006). Likewise, in southeastern
New Mexico, the Gray Vireo was found in only a narrow elevation range,
with trees above the range
potentially too dense, and trees below
potentially too sparse (Hawks Aloft 2006).
Wintering . In southwestern Arizona and northwestern Sonora, Mexico, the Gray Vireo is directly associated with the elephant tree (Busera microphylla), often in rocky canyons (Bates 1992a, Barlow et al. 1999). Associated vegetation includes various cacti (Pachycereus spp., Lophocereus spp.), ironwood (Olneya tesota), jojoba (Simmondsia chiensis), and cholla (Opuntia spp.; Bates 1992a). In a separate population in the Big Bend National Park in Texas, winter habitat is desert scrub, such as creosote (Larrea spp.), ocotillo (Fouquieria spp.), and yucca (Yucca spp.). The Gray Vireo appears not to winter in New Mexico. (Ref. 109950)
Habitat Trends: The Gray Vireo is associated mostly with juniper, piñon-juniper, and, in southeastern New Mexico, oak, along foothills and bajadas (see Section 2.1.4, Required Habitats). Based upon old photographs, age-structure analyses, and observations, the distribution of piñon pine and particularly juniper have expanded across the southwest with potentially an increase in tree density as well (Barbour and Billings 1988, Springfield 1976, Tausch et al. 1981)3. Piñon-juniper was mostly absent from the Great Basin and southwestern United States up until 10,000 years before present (BP; Tausch 1999). Since 150 years BP, current theory holds that overlyintensive grazing removed native herbaceous vegetation that crowded out woody seedlings and thus fine fuels for fire ignition and transmission, allowing piñon-juniper to invade; further, reductions in fire frequency and intensity that tended to control the woodland may have led to piñon-juniper exanding from poor soil types or rocky areas where herbaceous vegetation was sparse, to upslope and into savannahs (Belsky 1996, Ellison 1960, Burkhardt and Tisdale 1976, but see Romme et al. 2003)4. Invasive juniper has also been implicated in soil erosion or desertification in certain areas (Davenport et al. 1998, Miller et al. 2000). However, piñon-juniper has been a long-standing component in many areas, perhaps including regions favored by the Gray Vireo, such as foothills and bajadas (Belsky 1996, Betancourt 1987, Davis 1987, West and Van Pelt 1987). 
An associated trend for Gray Vireo habitat are efforts to remove or thin juniper, through chaining, fire, chipping, and other such activities (Belsky 1996, Monsen and Stevens 1999). In the southwest hundreds of thousands of acres of piñon-juniper were treated from the 1940’s-1960’s, mostly to improve forage for livestock, but such efforts were eventually all but abandoned due to expense (Belsky 1996). Interest in such treatments have rekindled in recent decades (Monsen and Stevens 1999). In some cases, removal of piñon-juniper has led to increases in quality forage (Belsky 1996, Monsen and Stevens 1999, Bedell 1987, Brown 1987)6. In other cases no improvement in forage was found; in certain instances, noxious weeds like cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum L.) invaded after treatment, including some treatments employing high-intensity fires (Evans 1988, Evans and Young 1985 and 1988, Bunting 1987).
Climate change could also potentially impact the habitat of the Gray Vireo. The trend for the average temperature in July in New Mexico, when the Gray Vireo is in the state, has been an increase of 0.83° C (1.5°F) per decade over the last twenty years (National Climatic Data Center, National Environmental Satellite , Data, and Information Service, http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/ncdc.html). This trend is expected to continue (Floyd 2006). Drier conditions from increased temperatures and evapotranspiration could reduce the distribution and health of piñon-juniper and increase its susceptibility to fire (Floyd 2006). Further, climate changes, such as increased drought , may exacerbate the threat of insect outbreaks, as was the case for piñon pine forests in northern New Mexico in recent decades (Allen and Breshears 1998, Ayres and Lombardero 2000).
Vegetation: tropical lowland evergreen forest, pine-oak forests, arid montane scrubs • Minimum Elevation: 1,000 meters • Maximum Elevation: 1,700 meters • Foraging Strata: Midstory • Center of Abundance: Upper subtropical: higher slopes, 500-1,600 m.; subtropics. • Sensitivity to Disturbance: Medium
Typically found at an altitude of 0 to 3,632 meters (0 to 11,916 feet).
List of Habitats
- 1 Forest
- 1.5 Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
- 2 Savanna
- 2.1 Savanna - Dry
- 3 Shrubland
- 3.5 Shrubland - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
- 3.7 Shrubland - Subtropical/Tropical High Altitude [more info]
During breeding season
, the Gray Vireo is insectivorous
, taking grasshoppers,
stinkbugs, treehoppers, crickets, moths, damselflies, cicadas, and
caterpillars (Barlow et al.
1999). Butterflies and wasps may also
be taken. During winter, the species is frugivorous
, taking fruits
from the Elephant Tree
. microphylla), in southwestern Arizona,
Sonora and likely Baja, Mexico (Bates 1992b), whereas the population
in Big Bend
National Park, Texas, is insectivorous (Barlow et al.
Gray Vireos forage in thickets (Hamilton 1962), predominantly by gleaning foliage and branches for insects or fruits (Barlow et al. 1999). They will stalk prey , capture with a short flight, hover , take prey in flight like a flycatcher, or pounce upon insects. Most prey items are taken by gleaning, stalking, or capture after a short flight (Orenstein and Barlow 1981, Griffin 1986, Barlow et al. 1999). Prey is consumed in the branches of the thicket. Wintering birds that take fruit feed on capsule-free fruit and do not defecate seeds, in all likelihood regurgitating them instead (Bates 1992b). (Ref. 109950)
Gray Vireos may not drink in arid parts of California but seem to build nests near water sources in Arizona and Texas (Wauer 1971, Barlow et al. 1999).
In California the Gray Vireo is found in coastal chaparral
woodland, and the latter habitat
in Colorado (Barlow et al.
In Arizona the species is associated with chaparral-juniper and dwarf
, oak (Quercus spp.
), piñon pine, juniper,
and madrone (Arbutus spp; Phillips et al. 1964, Barlow et al. 1970).
The bird was found to prefer piñon-juniper habitat dominated
by juniper on the Colorado Plateau
in Arizona and Utah (Schlossberg
2006). The vireo makes use of three habitat forms in New Mexico (DeLong
and Williams 2006). In northern part of the state, the species uses
stands of piñon pine and Utah juniper (J. osteosperma) at
of 1768 – 2195 m
(5800 – 7200 ft
); in central New Mexico,
the Gray Vireo typically uses oneseed juniper (J. monosperma) savannahs
at 1676 – 2134 m (5500 – 7000 ft), although in west-central New Mexico,
the species may occasionally be found in juniper savannahs above
2195 m (7,200 ft); in southern parts of New Mexico, the bird uses
juniper-oak woodlands and desert riparian
communities at 1311 – 2012
m (4300 – 6600 ft). Habitat quality may be linked to juniper density
perhaps with quality thresholds for density of trees
Williams 2006, Schlossberg 2006). While on the Colorado Plateau areas
with some shrubs
were preferred (Schlossberg 2006), no relationship
was found between Gray Vireo presence and any shrub variable in northern
and central New Mexico (DeLong and Williams 2006). Currently no information
is available for habitat selection by the vireo in southern New Mexico.
Male Gray Vireos arrive on the breeding grounds a few days before females and begin calling (see Section 2.1.6, Behavior, and Section 2.1.8, Movement). Pairs are formed within the first day Gray Vireo Recovery Plan Page 10 New Mexico Dept. of Game and Fish the female arrives and birds normally remain monogamous during the breeding season . In New Mexico breeding commences in late April, and may continue into July if nest failure has occurred (DeLong and Williams 2006, see Section 2.1.9, Predators and Brood Parasitism). Once a mate has been acquired, the male follows the female as she searches for a suitable nesting site, the male singing constantly, with copulation taking place as the nest nears completion (Barlow et al. 1999). Nests are often on west or north-facing trees (Barlow et al. 1999). Nesting trees in Colorado ranged from 1.8 – 4.8 m (5.9 – 15.6 ft) in height , with the nests ranging from 1.3 – 3.4 m (4.3 – 11.2 ft) above ground (Barlow et al. 1999). Nests often screened by other foliage . Tree species used for nesting include oneseed juniper (J. monosperma), Utah juniper (J. utahensis), alligator juniper (J. deppeana), piñon pine (P. edulis), mesquite (Prosopis spp.), and oak (Quercus spp.). In New Mexico nests are placed primarily in juniper trees (Juniperus spp.; DeLong and Williams 2006).
Nest typical of vireo family in that it is a cup hanging from forks in tree (See Figure 6). Construction of nest takes approximately five days, beginning with equal efforts by both parents before the female takes over the majority of construction (Barlow et al. 1999). Nests are constructed of woven grasses, bark , plant fiber, spider webs, and cocoons , and lined with fine grass , hair, and thistle down (Barlow et al. 1999, Bent 1950). Dimensions of nests measured in Colorado ranged from 45 – 70 mm (1.8 – 2.8 in) in height, 50 – 85 mm (2.0 – 3.4 in) outside diameter, 35 – 71 mm (1.4 – 2.8 in) inside diameter, and 28 – 48 mm (1.1 – 1.9 in) cup depth.
Gray Vireos lay an average of 3 eggs , generally one egg per day until the clutch is complete , with incubation beginning after the second egg is laid. For 38 nests in New Mexico, 2.8 eggs (± 1.1 SD) were produced (DeLong and Williams 2006). Eggs are smooth , oval in shape , rose-colored when freshly-laid and dull white when dry, with some spots present throughout. Size ranges from 16.7 – 19.7 mm (0.7 – 0.8 in), and mass ranges from 1.8 – 2.1 g (0.06 – 0.07 oz ; Barlow et al. 1999). Both sexes will sit on eggs during the day, but only the female incubates at night (Barlow et al. 1999). Both sexes will sing occasionally while on the nest. The incubation patch on the female is gone by August in birds nesting in Colorado but still present at that time in Arizona and Texas (Barlow et al. 1999).
Incubation lasts 12 – 14 days. Nestlings are altricial (naked with eyes closed at hatching ), with eyes beginning to open after five to six days (Barlow et al. 1999). Gape and feet are yellow in color. Both parents brood, with brooding diminishing somewhat after six days. Parents will stand on the rim of the nest and shade the nestlings, and will also remove shell fragments and other debris (Barlow et al. 1999). All fledglings tend to leave the nest on the same day, often flying to nearby low branches and to the ground . In New Mexico, of 44 nests examined, young fledged per territority ranged from 0.7 to 3.0 fledglings (DeLong and Williams 2006). In southeastern New Gray Vireo Recovery Plan Page 11 New Mexico Dept. of Game and Fish Mexico 6 of 19 (32%) nests fledged at least one vireo (Hawks Aloft 2006). Parents will continue to feed the young birds for five to ten more days, the young staying within 15.0 – 20.0 m (49.2 – 65.6 ft) of nest (Barlow et al. 1999). Subsequent dispersal by immatures is poorly studied. Gray Vireos will abandon nests. Of 87 nests examined in New Mexico, 38 were abandoned (DeLong and Williams 2006). In the case of nest failure, for such reasons as disease, desiccation, predation , or brood-parasitism, Gray Vireos will re-nest. Males will build practice (bachelor) nests (Barlow et al. 1999).
Breeding Habitat: Successional-scrub Nest Location: Ground-low nesting Nest Type: Open-cup Clutch Size: 3-4 Length of Incubation: 13-14 days Days to Fledge : 13-14 Number of Broods: 2
Few documented instances of stopover sightings, and therefore poorly studied, as the Gray Vireo is considered a short-distance migrant (DeLong and Williams 2006, Barlow et al. 1999). Birds in Texas have been found to stop at habitat similar to winter and breeding regions (Griffin 1986).
Breeding. Unmated male Gray Vireos sing from exposed branches, often
at the top of a tree
and may use its pale
gray breast as a form of
signal for potential mates (Barlow et al.
1999). Nesting Gray Vireos
, with males maintaining the territory through song
of the perimeter. Territory size varies in part with
, ranging from 2.0 – 4.0 ha (4.9 – 9.9 ac) in Texas
to 7.0 ha (17.3 ac) in Colorado (Barlow et al. 1999). Some fighting
takes place between males, with most agonistic displays consisting
and closing of the long tail, puffing the breast and
, and the erecting of the crest
(Barlow et al. 1999).
Females will on occasion emit a scolding call
toward an intruding
. Males will chase intruders. Birds give scolding calls
and will attack and chase potential nest
. Both sexes sit
tightly on nest (Barlow et al. 1999, see Figure
Winter. Gray Vireos are territorial in their wintering habitat , but the incidence of territorial disputes decrease over the course of winter (Bates 1992a, Barlow et al. 1999).
Basic flight of Gray Vireos is rapid and direct between shrubs , with the Gray Vireo more active than most vireos (NMDGF files ). They will sally from perches like flycatchers and will also hover at leaves to pick off insects (Barlow et al. 1999). Flight undulating when approaching nest. Birds hop while foraging in shrubs for food or on the ground for nesting material (Barlow et al. 1999). The Gray Vireo is a short-distance migrant (See Figure 2). Populations in Utah south to Arizona migrate to southwestern Arizona and coastal Sonora, Mexico, while Californian populations move down to Baja California, Mexico (Barlow et al. 1999). Birds arrive in New Mexico in April, and leave by early September, with few reports of migration stopovers in the State (DeLong and Williams 2006). The wintering grounds of Gray Vireos that breed in New Mexico are unknown.
Predation on Gray Vireos has not been observed, but Loggerhead Shrikes (Lanius ludovicianus) have been suggested as one potential predator (Barlow et al. 1999, Barlow and Flood 1990, Bates 1987). Species that may prey upon eggs or nestlings include snakes , Western Scrub-jays (Aphelocoma californica), Mexican Jays (A. ultramarina), Northern Mockingbirds (Mimus polyglottos), Scott’s Oriole (Icterus parisorum), Hooded Orioles (I. cucullatus), rats (Rattus spp. ), chipmunks, and Coyotes (Canis latrans; Barlow et al. 1999).
Brood parasitism by Brown-headed Cowbirds (Molothrus ater) is a threat for Gray Vireo nests , and may well be a major limiting factor of the vireo in New Mexico (Barlow et al. 1999, DeLong and Williams 2006, Hanna 1944, Friedmann 1963)2. Cowbirds will lay eggs in vireo nests, usually before the vireos have finished laying their own eggs, leaving the feeding and care of the hatchlings to the vireos. Both sexes of the Gray Vireo will chase off a cowbird, but if the nest is parasitized the parents will normally abandon the nest and try again elsewhere. In four studies in New Mexico cowbird brood-parasitism of Gray Vireos ranged from 24 – 71% of nests, of which three quarters of the nests were abandoned (DeLong and Williams 2006). In a recent study in southeastern New Mexico, 12 of 17 nests (71%) were parasitized by Brown-headed Cowbirds, with 1 cowbird fledged (Hawks Aloft 2006). Occasionally Gray Vireos will renest in the same structure of the parasitized nest (Ehrlich et al. 1988). Habitat quality and connectivity heavily influence the rates of both nest predation and brood parasitism, particularly the latter; cowbirds are often associated with disturbed landscapes and/or the presence of cattle (Tewksbury et al. 2006, Lowther 1993, NMDGF files ).
- Whittaker & Margulis,1978
- C. Linnaeus, 1758
- (Hatschek, 1888) Cavalier-Smith, 1983
- Grobben, 1908
- (Haeckel, 1874) Cavalier-Smith, 1998
- Bateson, 1885
- Cuvier, 1812
- Jawed Vertebrates
- Goodrich, 1930
- Linnaeus, 1758
- Gauthier, 1986
- (C. Linnaeus, 1758)
- Pycraft, 1900
- Sibley et al., 1988
- Order: Passeriformes () - C. Linnaeus, 1758
- Superorder: Passerimorphae () - Sibley et al., 1988
- Cohort: Neognathae () - Pycraft, 1900
- Infraclass: Aves () - (C. Linnaeus, 1758)
- Subclass: Avialae () - Gauthier, 1986
- Class: Aves () - Linnaeus, 1758
- Superclass: Tetrapoda () - Goodrich, 1930
- Infraphylum: Gnathostomata () - auct. - Jawed Vertebrates
- Subphylum: Vertebrata () - Cuvier, 1812 - Vertebrates
- Phylum: Chordata () - Bateson, 1885 - Chordates
- Infrakingdom: Chordonia () - (Haeckel, 1874) Cavalier-Smith, 1998
- Branch: Deuterostomia () - Grobben, 1908
- Subkingdom: Bilateria () - (Hatschek, 1888) Cavalier-Smith, 1983
- Kingdom: Animalia () - C. Linnaeus, 1758 - animals
Status: Accepted Name
Last scrutiny: 17-Oct-2001
Plumbeous Vireo, Bell's Vireo
The Plumbeous Vireo is similar in appearance, but is one third larger, with two white wing-bars and an incomplete white eye-ring. (Ref. 109950)
Members of the genus Vireo
ZipcodeZoo has pages for 78 species and subspecies in this genus:
(Black-Whiskered Vireo) · (Black-Whiskered Vireo) · (Black-Whiskered Vireo) · (Black-Capped Vireo) · V. atricapillus (Black-Headed Greenlet) · (Cozumel Vireo) · (Bell's Vireo) · (Bell's Vireo (Arizona)) · (Bell's Vireo (Eastern)) · V. bellii Least (Bell's Vireo) · (Bell's Vireo) · (Bell's Vireo (Least)) · (Slaty Vireo) · (Saint Andrew Vireo) · (Yellow-Winged Vireo) · V. carmioli carmioli (Yellow-Winged Vireo) · (Cassin's Vireo) · (Cassin's Vireo (Cassin's)) · V. cassinii lucasanus (Cassin's Vireo) · (Thick-Billed Vireo (Thick-Billed)) · (Thick-Billed Vireo (Old Providence)) · (Thick-Billed Vireo) · (Thick-Billed Vireo) · (Yellow-Throated Vireo) · (Yellow-Green Vireo) · (Yellow-Green Vireo) · (Warbling Vireo (Western)) · (Warbling Vireo) · (Warbling Vireo (Eastern)) · (Warbling Vireo) · (Warbling Vireo) · (Noronha Vireo) · (White-Eyed Vireo (White-Eyed)) · (White-Eyed Vireo) · (White-Eyed Vireo) · (White-Eyed Vireo (Veracruz)) · (Cuban Vireo) · (Hutton's Vireo (Interior)) · (Hutton's Vireo) · (Hutton's Vireo) · (Hutton's Vireo) · (Hutton's Vireo) · (Hutton's Vireo) · (Golden Vireo) · (Golden Vireo) · (Puerto Rican Vireo) · (Brown-Capped Vireo) · (Brown-Capped Vireo) · (Brown-Capped Vireo) · (Brown-Capped Vireo) · (Yucatan Vireo) · (Choco Vireo) · (Jamaican Vireo) · (Flat-Billed Vireo) · (Dwarf Vireo) · (Red-Eyed Vireo (Resident Chivi)) · (Red-Eyed Vireo) · (Red-Eyed Vireo (Migratory Chivi)) · (Red-Eyed Vireo) · (Red-Eyed Vireo) · (Red-Eyed Vireo (Red-Eyed)) · (Red-Eyed Vireo) · (Red-Eyed Vireo) · (Blue Mountain Vireo) · (Mangrove Vireo) · (Mangrove Vireo (Northern Central America)) · (Mangrove Vireo (Southern Central America)) · (Mangrove Vireo (West Mexico)) · (Mangrove Vireo) · (Philadelphia Vireo) · (Plumbeous Vireo (Plumbeous)) · (Plumbeous Vireo) · (Plumbeous Vireo) · (Blue-Headed Vireo) · (Blue-Headed Vireo) · (Blue-Headed Vireo) · V. swainsonii (Western Warbling Vireo) · (Grey Vireo)
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Accessed through GBIF Data Portal February 29, 2008:
- Avian Knowledge Network: eBird
- Avian Knowledge Network: Great Backyard Bird Count
- Avian Knowledge Network: Project FeederWatch
- Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics
- Museum of Vertebrate Zoology: Terrestrial vertebrate specimens
- UCLA-Dickey Bird Collection (UCLA-Dickey): Bird specimens
- UNIBIO, IBUNAM: CNAV/Coleccion Nacional de Aves
- University of Michigan Museum of Zoology (UMMZ): Bird specimens
- Biodiversity Heritage Library NamebankID: 3809
- Catalogue of Life Accepted Name Code: ITS-179008
- Global Biodiversity Information Facility Taxonkey: 2490765
- Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) Taxonomic Serial Number (TSN): 179008
- IUCN ID: 248720
- Natural Heritage Network Species Identifier: ABPBW01140
- Zipcode Zoo Species Identifier: 13958
- Pierce, Leland J. S. "Gray Vireo (Vireo vicinior) Recovery Plan" Conservation Services Division, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish May 3, 2007 [back]
- Mean = 1,076.560 meters (3,532.021 feet), Standard Deviation = 564.420 based on 314 observations. Altitude information for each observation from British Oceanographic Data Centre. [back]