Black-capped VireoVireo atricapilla

adult female
Greg Lasley/VIREO
adult male
Greg Lasley/VIREO
adult male
Greg Lasley/VIREO
juvenile
Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO

Family

Description

Flitting about actively in the oak scrub, often hanging upside down momentarily, the little Black-cap is our most distinctive vireo. It is also the rarest, nesting only locally in Texas and Oklahoma. Its eggs take an unfortunately long time to hatch; cowbird eggs, laid in the same nests, usually hatch first, so that the vireos raise only young cowbirds. Without some kind of control of cowbird numbers, the vireo may face extinction.

Habitat

Oak scrub, brushy hills, rocky canyons. Breeds on hot dry hillsides with dense thickets of brush, especially scrub oaks, often with many openings or gaps rather than solid cover. Winters in Mexico in dense thickets and woodland edges, especially in foothills and lowlands.

Feeding Diet

Mostly insects, some berries. Feeds mainly on insects in summer; diet not known in detail, but eats many caterpillars, beetles, small grasshoppers and crickets, and others, as well as spiders. Also eats some berries and small fruits. Winter diet poorly known, but may include more berries.

Feeding Behavior

Forages more actively than most vireos, moving among branches and twigs in dense cover, sometimes hanging upside down like a chickadee to take items from underside of foliage.

Nesting

Male defends territory by singing frequently through much of breeding season. In courtship, male sings while following female; may also perform short song-flight. Nest: Placed in low scrubby oak or other dense shrub, usually 2-6' above ground, rarely higher. Both parents help build nest, a small hanging cup suspended in the horizontal fork of a twig. Nest is made of grass, strips of bark, weeds, leaves, bound together with spiderwebs; inside is lined with fine grass. Eggs: 3-4, rarely 2-5. White, unmarked (most other vireos lay spotted eggs). Incubation, by both parents, averages about 15 days, surprisingly long for small size of bird. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave the nest about 10-12 days after hatching, and may be cared for by parents for more than another month. Sometimes male is left to care for first brood while female begins 2nd nesting attempt.

Eggs

3-4, rarely 2-5. White, unmarked (most other vireos lay spotted eggs). Incubation, by both parents, averages about 15 days, surprisingly long for small size of bird. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave the nest about 10-12 days after hatching, and may be cared for by parents for more than another month. Sometimes male is left to care for first brood while female begins 2nd nesting attempt.

Young

Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave the nest about 10-12 days after hatching, and may be cared for by parents for more than another month. Sometimes male is left to care for first brood while female begins 2nd nesting attempt.

Conservation

Endangered. Has disappeared from many former haunts, and is declining in many current breeding areas. Heavy cowbird parasitism and loss of habitat are major threats. In some areas, projects are under way to control cowbird numbers and to create more nesting habitat through controlled burning.

Range

Generally arrives in Texas in April, departs in September. Migrates toward the southwest in fall, wintering along west coast of Mexico.

Listen

song #2
song #1
calls
jumbled song

Similar Species

adult, Northern

White-eyed Vireo

A busy bird of the thickets, most common in the southeast. Although the White-eyed Vireo usually stays in dense cover, it is not always hard to see; it will come up to examine and scold a birder who stands near the bushes and makes squeaking sounds. Even when it remains out of sight, its snappy song is distinctive. In Bermuda, where the bird is common, it is widely known as "chick-of-the-village," a good rendition of the song.

adult

Plumbeous Vireo

This is a common summer bird in the Rocky Mountain region, nesting in middle-elevation woodlands, often among oaks. When feeding, it works rather deliberately along branches, searching for insects. Its nest, a bulky cup suspended in the fork of a twig, is often easy to find. This bird was formerly lumped with the Blue-headed and Cassin's vireos under the name Solitary Vireo.

adult

Blue-headed Vireo

This vireo is common in summer in mixed forest, where conifers and deciduous trees grow together. When feeding, it works rather deliberately along branches, searching for insects. Its nest, a bulky cup suspended in the fork of a twig, is often easy to find. This bird was formerly lumped with the western Plumbeous and Cassin's vireos under the name Solitary Vireo.

Vireo

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