Blue-headed Vireo

On a stormy, dark, windy, rainy day, I hadn’t spent much time outside. Late in the afternoon, I had just returned from a trip to the store during a break in the rain, and was carrying in the groceries when I heard the song of a vireo. It was high and sweet and clear – a Blue-headed Vireo, singing from somewhere in trees on the edge of our yard. By the time I had gotten binoculars and come back out, it had moved further away, too far to see, but I could still hear the song for several minutes.

A Blue-headed Vireo used to be one of our earliest signs of spring, but I haven’t heard or seen one as often in the past few years, so I was disappointed not to be able to see this one. A small songbird with a blue-gray head and bold white spectacles, it moves steadily, deliberately through the trees in a characteristic, sedate way, searching the branches for insects. Though it’s not usually quick and fluttery as it moves, a Blue-headed Vireo often will fly up or hover to catch insects in flight. I first learned to know it as a Solitary Vireo, a name that still seems to me to fit it better, though Solitary Vireos now have been broken into three separate, similar species, each with a new name.

The Blue-headed Vireo’s song is a series of varied, short phrases, similar to some other vireos, but with a distinctive clear and airy quality, sung in a slower, almost dreamy way. The song sounds, to me, like the Blue-headed Vireo looks – cool, smooth, deliberate, pretty.

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