A Yellow-throated Vireo – Seldom Heard This Year

Last week for several days, a Yellow-throated Vireo sang every day all around the edges of our woods and in the oaks and pecan trees close to the house. I was happy to hear its burry, musical series of phrases because I’d just about given up hope of having one return this spring. Usually, it’s one of the earlier migrants to return, and it’s common around the edges of our woods throughout the summer, and fairly easy to locate and see. But not this year.

Rather uncharacteristically, this one stayed high in the tops of trees, where it was very difficult to see. Once I got a brief glimpse as it flew from the top of a pine to a sweet gum. The second time, I heard it singing in the topmost branches of a large pecan tree, and saw a bright yellow spot shining out from the dense green leaves. Before I could lift the binoculars, it had ducked back into the leaves, so I never got a really good look at its familiar bright yellow throat and breast, and yellow “spectacles” around its eyes. Still, the song was welcome, and knowing it was here, even if I couldn’t see it, made the woods feel more nearly complete for a while. But now it seems to have traveled on, and I haven’t heard its song since May 21.

While its relative, the Red-eyed Vireo, sings in a cool, smooth voice of the deep woods, vines, and shady places, a Yellow-throated Vireo sings a somewhat earthier, rough-edged song, reflecting the forest-edge habitat it prefers, where weeds, grasses, shrubs and small trees meet the denser woods. Though it’s associated with this kind of edge habitat, a Yellow-throated Vireo apparently needs an extensive stand of deeper forest, too. Studies have shown that it requires large areas of contiguous forest, as well as the edge habitat, in order to be successful in breeding.

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