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BELL'S VIREO } Vireo bellii

RANGE: In summer, found from southern California and southern Nevada to central North Dakota, Iowa, Indiana, and Arkansas southward. Winters in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras.

STATUS: The Bell’s vireo is listed as Near-threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature; Southern California's least Bell’s vireo subspecies is listed as Endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

THREATS: Habitat loss and parasitic cowbirds.

The distinctive song of the Bell's vireo is a favorite of birders, and its musical inclinations and name have inspired some to call a gathering of these birds a “peal” or “tintinnabulation” (meaning the ringing of bells). This North American songbird dines on caterpillars, stinkbugs, wasps, and spiders. Often dismissed as “drab” or “plain” for a bird, its modest, gray-green plumage helps it blend in with leafy surroundings in dense woodland habitat. Vireos are a favorite target of cowbirds — parasitic birds that lay their own eggs in the nests of other birds for them to raise — so when their camouflage fails these plucky little birds guard their low-hanging, cup-like nests fearlessly, warding off intruders large and small. Unfortunately, habitat loss is a greater threat to Bell’s vireo populations, which are in decline across their range.


Photo by Greg Lasley, USFWS