- Minnesota Breeding Bird Distribution
- Breeding Habitat
- Population Abundance
- Literature Cited
A regular breeding species throughout the forested areas of the state and a common spring and fall migrant. The species was very abundant during the Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas (MNBBA).
The Red-eyed Vireo is widely distributed in the eastern United States and the southern boreal forest across all of the Canadian provinces to British Columbia (Figure 1). Red-eyed Vireos are especially abundant in areas of northern Minnesota and Wisconsin, several places in Ontario and the New England states, as well as western Pennsylvania and northwestern Arkansas.
Assigned a Continental Concern Score of 6/20 by Partners in Flight.
Long-distance Neotropical migrant that over-winters in northern South America.
Insectivorous, feeding especially on caterpillars gleaned from foliage.
Pensile cup nest suspended from the end of a branch in a tree or shrub.
Roberts (1932) described the Red-eyed Vireo as “an abundant summer resident throughout the state wherever there are trees” and as one of the most “generally distributed birds.” He listed the confirmed county nesting records as not excessive in number but extensive in distribution across the state. He included documentation from Wabasha and Goodhue Counties in southeastern Minnesota, from Hennepin and Sherburne Counties and Mille Lacs in the east-central part of the state, from Cass and Marshall Counties in the northwest, and in Itasca, Lake, and St. Louis Counties in the northeast. All of these records included nests with eggs, except ones in Goodhue (nests only), Mille Lacs (nest, nest building, and young out of the nest), and St. Louis (young out of the nests). He also thought that the species is a “common inhabitant of the natural groves and timber-claims of the western prairies” and so likely a nesting species where suitable habitat existed.
Green and Janssen (1975), more than forty years later, described the Red-eyed Vireo simply as a “resident throughout the state” and the “most widespread and numerous vireo species.” Janssen (1987) emphasized it was a numerous resident “throughout the heavily wooded areas of the state” and “least numerous in the southwest region.” Janssen, along with Hertzel and Janssen (1998), documented and considerably expanded confirmed nesting since 1970 in counties ranging from Houston County in the extreme southeast, to Murray County in the southwest, to Roseau County in the northwest, and to Cook County in the northeast.
The Minnesota Biological Survey illustrated the wide distribution of breeding locations throughout the state with a total of 4,253 records (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources 2016). No locations were included from many western Minnesota counties, such as Big Stone, Norman, Pipestone, and Wilkin. These were also counties without confirmed nesting records in Janssen (1987) or Hertzel and Janssen (1998). Breeding observations were also sparse in many counties in southwestern Minnesota, except along the Minnesota River and its forested floodplain.
The MNBBA recorded 7,380 records and identified possible breeding observations from every county in the state (Figure 2). Breeding records were recorded in 61.8% (2,952/4,777) of blocks covered in the MNBBA (Figure 3; Table 1). Cottonwood, Grant, Lincoln, Martin, Pipestone, Redwood, Stevens, Watonwan, and Wilkin Counties had only one possible nesting record. All other counties had probable or confirmed nesting observations. An additional 17 counties had confirmed nesting records not previously cited by Janssen (1987) or Hertzel and Janssen (1998). However, as noted, definitions for nesting activity vary between the MNBBA and those used by the Minnesota Ornithologists Union.
The MNBBA probability map illustrates the extensive distribution of the Red-eyed Vireo throughout the state with the highest densities predicted in the heavily forested regions of northeastern and north-central Minnesota (Figure 4). Outside of this region densities are also relatively high in northwestern, western, south central, and in southeastern Minnesota, especially along forested river valleys. Red-eyed Vireos can be found almost anywhere there is suitable forested areas, including woodlots in agricultural and urbanized regions.
The Red-eyed Vireo has likely become less abundant in Minnesota compared with the mid-1850s because of the loss of more than 40% of forested area in the state. It is, however, still a very abundant species. Its breeding distribution was more extensive in Wisconsin, where it was found in 91% of priority blocks (Cutright et al. 2006). In addition, Cimprich et al. (2000) in their review of the Red-eyed Vireo in North America reported it was expanding in Oregon, Utah, and Newfoundland from the 1920s to 1940s concurrent with the planting of trees in shelterbelts and other landscaping activities.
*Note that the definition of confirmed nesting of a species is different for Breeding Bird Atlas projects, including the definition used by the Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas, compared with a more restrictive definition used by the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union. For details see the Data Methods Section.