Yellow-throated Vireo – A Bird of the Treetops

Late this afternoon, the trees with their new green leaves tossed in a gusty, chilly wind. After a few days of warm weather, it’s turned cooler again and clear, with a deep blue sky and lots of small, scattered white clouds – and a Yellow-throated Vireo singing in the treetops around our yard, the most recent migrant to make its appearance here. I first heard it singing three days ago, and since then it’s stayed around and I’ve often stopped to listen to its mellow, burry song.

A Yellow-throated Vireo is a small songbird with a bright yellow throat and breast, and bold yellow spectacles. Its back and head are olive-green, its belly pale, and its wings are marked with two white bars. It’s a very colorful bird, but sometimes hard to see as it moves steadily, rather slowly through the upper parts of trees, singing as it goes. Sometimes it stops to sing for a while from a high perch, clearly in view, but often it’s just a little lower and harder to find among the foliage, though the song is rich and clear, and often the most noticeable birdsong around. Today I saw it briefly through the leaves, well enough to glimpse the yellow throat and spectacles and wing bars, though it remained half-hidden in the shadows.

A Yellow-throated Vireo spends winters in tropical Central and South America and the Caribbean, and is usually among the earliest neotropical migrants to return here. It’s another colorful songbird that has been designated as climate-threatened by the National Audubon Society because of potential changes in the habitat it needs. A bird that depends on large areas of forest, it is considered very vulnerable to forest fragmentation and loss.

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