photo credit: Laura Gooch
Blue-Headed Vireo song (Vireo solitarius)

The Blue-headed Vireo, while among some of the cutest of little perching birds, is not always easy to spot — and in the Northeast it’s most often in a coniferous forest. Thankfully, he’ll let you know where he is with his sweet voice. In the recording above, you’ll hear a male Blue-headed Vireo sing. Listen closely and you’ll hear another nearby male counter-singing in the background to this male (along with a few other species!)

In Peterson’s Field Guide to Bird Sounds of Eastern North America, author Nathan Pieplow describes the Blue-headed Vireo’s song as a series of 1-3 syllaballed clear whistled phrases. Creating my own mnemonic, perhaps it would be along the lines of “Hey love; it’s me; how ’bout here?” because in courtship the male will select a possible nest site and sing from it. If the female accepts his proposal, they will build the nest together.

While Blue-headed Vireo females are not known to “sing”, both female and male make many interesting sounds to communicate to each other, as the recording below reveals. Initially, this racket of odd sounds recorded was unknown to all the project’s volunteer recordists; not just myself. Sometime later however, I took another stab at listening to the recording to see if there were other clues. Sure enough the clear whistled song of the Blue-headed Vireo was present and lead me to search Cornell’s Macaulay Library for its calls. And there it was! How cool is that?

a clip of two Blue-headed Vireos, likely male and female, making a variety of calls

a sonogram of a couple of the calls with a song phrase in the center

For the full recording of 1) the Blue-headed Vireo with a distant counter-singing male click here, and 2) for the two Blue-headed Vireos making a jumble of calls click here.

For lots more about the Blue-headed Vireo, go to Cornell Lab’s All About Birds.