Thursday, January 5, 2012

Vireo Nests

Last July Tom Feild and I went exploring in Pocomoke State Forest. One of the interesting things we found on our walk was this nest.

White-eyed Vireo nest
Photo: Jim Brighton

It was hanging under a limb in a small tree about five feet off the ground. It was a striking nest, made of lichens, fur, spider webs, and other various bits. At first, I thought it belonged to a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher since gnatcatchers use lichens in their nest construction. I wanted verification so I recently sent the photo to various people to see if they could identify the nest builder. Everyone agreed that the nest was made by a vireo and probably a White-eyed Vireo. Marshall Iliff pointed out that Blue-gray Gnatcatchers always build their nests on top of a branch (like the photo below) and vireo nests are always built underneath the branch.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher nest
Photo: Patricia Velte

My nest mystery was solved and my curiosity piqued. I spent the next evening reading about vireo nests online. Like I mentioned earlier in the post, vireos always build their nests underneath a branch. This is called pensive nesting. Vireo nests are built at different heights according to species. Red-eyed Vireos usually build their nest high in the tops of trees while White-eyed Vireo nests are normally built a few feet off the ground. In a study conducted by Eastern Kentucky University they found if a White-eyed Vireo nest was comprised by predation the parent vireos would leave the jeopardized nest and would build another nest in three to five days. They also noted that it was possible for a White-eyed Vireo pair to build three to four nests in a breeding season. Amazed at their intricate nest construction, I thought it would be cool to post a photograph of a nest from each species of vireo that breed in the Mid Atlantic region.

Warbling Vireo nest
Photo: Tom Grey

Red-eyed Vireo nest
Photo: Tom Murray

Yellow-throated Vireo nest
Photo: Phil Brown

Blue-headed Vireo nest
Photo: Jim McCormac

Here are a few links that may be of interest regarding vireos.

Eastern Kentucky University: White-eyed Vireo nesting study

The Vireo Homepage: Includes a list of every vireo species in the world and basic vireo information.

Youtube: a couple vireo nest videos

I would like to thank the photographers that made this post possible.

Jim McCormac:
Patricia Velte:
Phil Brown:
Tom Murray:
Tom Grey:

1 comment:

  1. What a cool thing to have discovered!!! Thanks for this post and expanding my knowledge and appreciation for the little bird architects who are our neighbors.