- Minnesota Breeding Bird Distribution
- Breeding Habitat
- Population Abundance
- Literature Cited
Summer vagrant; bred 1992, 2002. Migration visitant. The White-eyed Vireo was very rare during the Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas (MNBBA).
The White-eyed Vireo is found primarily in the southeastern states from southern New England west to eastern Iowa and south to Texas and Florida. It is less common north of southern Missouri, the Ohio River, the Appalachian Mountains, and Virginia. Highest densities are found along the coastal plain from southeast Texas to Florida, especially in Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi (Figure 1).
Assigned a Continental Concern Score of 8/20 by Partners in Flight.
A short- to medium-distance migrant that winters along the southern Atlantic coast, the Gulf coast to Yucatan and Belize, and in Cuba and the Bahamas.
An insectivore that feeds on caterpillars, moths, and butterflies that are gleaned from the foliage.
A cup nest that is suspended in the fork of two twigs, well concealed, and low to the ground.
The White-eyed Vireo is one of the smallest North American vireos and is very hard to see in the dense scrub that it inhabits. A glimpse of its distinctive white eye and yellow spectacles gives it away, but more often its elaborate jumbled song advertises its presence. There were no records of the White-eyed Vireo when Roberts wrote his treatise The Birds of Minnesota in 1932. The first observation was in Stearns County, July 31, 1941 (Hiemenz 1965). The species was not reported again until the 1960s, when there were 3 separate descriptions: June 5–6, 1983, Ramsey County (Holtz 1983); May 16, 1964, Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union files, Brown County; and May 23–24, 1965, Goodhue County (Huber 1965). In the 1970s, there were 2 more records: May 3, 1977, Washington County (Wojahn 1977), and May 25, 1977, Hennepin County (Fuller 1977).
In the decades after these early observations, the number of records steadily increased to 13 in the 1980s, 13 in the 1990s, and 20 from 2000–2013. Almost all these records were vagrant migrants in the spring (68%) and the fall (10%); the rest were summer records. With a few exceptions, discussed below, the migrant records were scattered throughout the southern third of the state, from Anoka County west to Swift County and south to the Iowa border. The spring migration was from the end of April and throughout May, and many of the birds found were singing males; in the fall, the birds were very late migrants, late October to late November. In these southern counties, it is difficult to know if they were displaced migrants or singing territorial birds. The few birds found in the northern two-thirds of the state were spring records, 2 from Clay County (1989, 2001), 1 from Otter Tail County (2000), and 1 remarkable fall record from Lutsen, Cook County, October 25–28, 2001 (Stephenson 2002).
There are a dozen records for the White-eyed Vireo during the summer season, starting in the 1980s (1983, 1986, and 1989). Except for a bird banded at Buffalo River State Park, Clay County (Nielsen 2005), all incidental summer records were south of the Twin Cities (Brown, Martin, Pipestone, Ramsey, Rice, Scott, and Winona Counties). Most birds were recorded on only a few days in early June, but several were seen longer: Martin County, June 6–July 1, 1986 (Sullivan 1986); Brown County, June 21–July 4, 1999 (Wiens 2000); Winona County, July 13–August 2002 (Eckert 2003). In addition, there are 2 breeding records that are well documented: Houston County (Schumacher 1992) and Steele County (Swanson and Batt 2002).
During the MNBBA from 2009 to 2013, only 1 record was submitted. It was on June 15, 2010, from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ Natural Heritage data base (T107R22a) (Figure 2). It was a possible breeding observation by Steve Stucker, both seen and heard, on June 15, 2010, near Goose Lake in Waseca County.
*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.