How to Identify a Red-Eyed Vireo

Updated: Feb. 13, 2023

See red-eyed vireo pictures, and find out how to identify their songs and nests. Plus learn about their range and what they eat.

What Does a Red-Eyed Vireo Look Like?

Bnbbyc19 David Parker

Plain colors—olive above, white below, with just a couple of black stripes on the face—make a red-eyed vireo hard to spot in the treetops. Its plumage blends with the green canopies of deciduous forests during summer.

Meet the vireo bird family: sweet summer singers.

Juvenile Red-Eyed Vireo

Immature red-eyed vireos have brown irises that turn varying shades of red during their first winter.

Discover more gorgeous green birds that you might see.

Red-Eyed Vireo Nest

red-eyed vireoCourtesy Janet Holdmann

“I’ve searched my field guide and cannot identify this bird and its unique nest that I spotted from my back deck. Can you help me identify it?” asks Birds & Blooms reader Janet Holdmann of Butler, Wisconsin.

Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman: That’s a fine bird and nest to see from your back deck! It’s a red-eyed vireo, but it might be hard to find in the book because the effects of lighting are changing its appearance in this photo. A lot of light is being reflected onto the bird from the surrounding leaves, making it seem far more yellowish than it really is. We’re identifying it by the shape of the bill and pattern of the face. The nest structure is typical, too. A vireo nest is shaped like a little pouch, suspended from twigs by its edges.

Discover how orioles weave elaborate nests.

Red-Eyed Vireo Song

SandraweberCourtesy Sandra Weber

“This bird (above) nested near a cabin where we were staying. What kind is it?” asks Sandra Weber of Mohnton, Pennsylvania.

George Harrison: Your mystery bird is a red-eyed vireo, considered by some as the most common summer bird in North America. Yet red-eyed vireos are heard more often than they are seen. Their song, see-me-here-I-am-where-are you over and over again, may become monotonous, but it is a vital sound of the hot summer woodlands throughout much of the country.

Vireos are known for their songs. They sing short phrases in a robin-like tone.

Meet more of the most musical songbirds in America.

What Do Red-Eyed Vireos Eat?

09 Liztabb Bbas19Courtesy Liz Tabb

These birds almost never visit bird feeders, but they might stop by your bird bath. Red-eyed vireos feed on insects among tree leaves, often singing continuously as they move.

To attract them, grow native plants that attract the caterpillars they love to eat. In fall, vireos feed on berry trees and bushes.

“Although the red-eyed vireo is a common summer resident here, it’s a rare treat to actually spot one. This bird (above) was in a wooded area near my home, munching on something yellow for breakfast,” says Liz Tabb of Elizabethtown, Kentucky.

Range and Habitat

09 Danieldraudt Bbam19Courtesy Danield Raudt

These birds are widespread across the eastern United States and most of southern Canada during the summer breeding season. Red-eyed vireos live mainly in deciduous forests, but you may hear them in populated areas with plenty of mature trees. They spend winter in the tropics.

“I live on a huge migration path for warblers and other birds. Seeing red-eyed vireos is always a highlight for me. After two weeks of searching, I found what I’d been looking for. This vireo (above) flew off as quickly as it came, but I got a few shots of it in the moment,” says Daniel Draudt of Buffalo, New York.

Red-Eyed Vireo Pictures

Bnbugc Heatherfarrell 1Courtesy Heather Farrell

“I went on a pontoon ride with two of my favorite bird nerd friends. While looking up into the trees at great blue herons, I spotted some beautiful autumn colors in the crook of a tree along the shore. As I was thinking about how a bird would make the photo more wonderful, this little red-eyed vireo (above) showed up and obliged,” says Heather Farrell of Streator, Illinois.

306425613 1 Kerri  Wallace Bnb Pc 2022

“One June morning I was wide awake at 5 a.m. and decided to go for walk at the Celery Farm in Allendale, New Jersey, (a well-known birding hotspot in my area). I had some lucky shots of a great blue heron, great egret, a yellow warbler, and other usual suspects. But it was this red-eyed vireo (above) on a low branch that caught my eye. I love this pretty little bird that always seems to stick around at the end of warbler season,” says Kerri Wallace.

Bnbbyc19 Emma England, green birdCourtesy Emma England

“I took this photograph in Lake County, Illinois, during fall migration. There were many birds feasting on the dogwood berries, including this beautiful red-eyed vireo. I love this photograph because I managed to capture the bird with a berry in its bill. Also, I like how it is framed by the foliage on this native shrub,” says Emma England.

Next, find out what warblers eat and how to attract them.