Vireo olivaceus olivaceus

Status:  Common regular spring and fall migrant east and central, uncommon west. Common regular breeder east, locally common elsewhere.

Documentation:  Specimen: UNSM ZM6782, 22 May 1900 Monroe Canyon, Sioux Co.

Taxonomy:  There are 10 subspecies recognized, all but one in Central and South America (Gill and Donsker 2017). The North American subspecies is olivaceus, occurring in Canada and east-central and eastern USA. Nebraska birds are olivaceus.

Spring:  Apr 26, 27, 27 <<<>>> summer

An earlier date is 23 Apr 2012 Lancaster Co.

Migrants arrive in late Apr, with peak numbers in mid-May.

  • High counts: 49 at Indian Cave SP, Nemaha and Richardson Cos 12 May 2000, 48 there 12 May 2004, and 46 at Wilderness Park, Lancaster Co 16 May 2021.

Summer:  BBS data indicate that the species breeds across the state; reports are fewest in the southwest, southern Panhandle (away from the North Platte River Valley), and Sandhills. Red-eyed Vireo prefers deciduous forest, and, while it breeds on the pine-covered Pine Ridge and Wildcat Hills (Mollhoff 2001), it is limited to riparian habitats in canyons and along river valleys (Rosche 1982). BBS trend analysis show Red-eyed Vireo abundance has increased 2.12% (95% C.I.; -0.41, 4.48) annually statewide 1966-2013.

Numbers may have increased in the southwest, as prior to 2000 there were very few reports there, including only three breeding season records south of the Platte River and west of Grand Island, Hall Co in the first BBA period 1984-1989 (Mollhoff 2001). In addition to those three records, a singing male was in Hitchcock Co 9 Jun 1990 (Grzybowski 1990), and two were in Dundy Co 22 Jun 1994. However, since 2000 eBird data show numerous post-2000 breeding season (Jun-Jul) reports for the area south of the Platte River Valley and west of Lexington, Dawson Co and 14 were at Medicine Creek Reservoir, Frontier Co, 30 Jun 2002. Furthermore, Mollhoff (2016) showed widespread reports in this region and stated it is “rapidly expanding its range along our rivers as woodlands mature”.

There are no breeding season records in Kimball, Cheyenne, or Deuel Cos in the southern Panhandle.

In the western Sandhills, there are numerous breeding season reports in the area southwest of Valentine in the Snake River drainage, Cherry Co and at NNF Bessey, Thomas Co. However, the only report in the western Sandhills away from these two areas is of one near Elsmere, southeast Cherry Co 18 Jun 2012. There are three reports from Crescent Lake NWR, Garden Co, all probably migrants: 1 Jun 2013, 3 Jun 2010, and 4 Jun 2007. There are no records for the stretch of the Niobrara River Valley between Cody, Cherry Co and Chadron, Dawes Co (, accessed Oct 2017).

      • Breeding Phenology:
        Eggs: 12 Jun-6 Jul
        Nestlings: 23-28 Jun
        Fledglings:14 Jul-11 Aug
      • High counts:  24 in Howard Co 8 Jun 2004, 20 at Niobrara Valley Preserve, Brown Co, 28 Jun 1997, 20 at Ponderosa WMA, Dawes Co 20 Jun 2020, 17 at Gilbert-Baker WMA, Sioux Co 14 Jun 2019, 15 at Platte River SP, Cass Co on 20 Jun 2009, and 15 at Neale Woods, Douglas Co 12 Jul 2019.

Fall:  summer <<<>>> Oct 3, 4, 5

Later dates are 12 Oct 2015 Nemaha Co, and 17 Oct 2020 Dundy Co.

Two that appeared at Wind Springs Ranch in southern Sioux Co 28 Jul 2006 may have dispersed from the Pine Ridge in response to extensive fires there.

Peak migration is in early to mid-Sep. Departure generally occurs by late Sep, although there are several Oct reports.

      • High counts:  50 in Dakota Co 6 Sep 2014, 29 in Schuyler, Colfax Co 7 Sep 2014, 20 at Ponca SP, Dixon Co 2 Sep 2018, and 20 at Pawnee Lake SRA, Lancaster Co 9 Sep 2018.


BBA: Breeding Bird Atlas
BBS: Breeding Bird Survey
NNF: Nebraska National Forest
SP: State Park
UNSM: University of Nebraska State Museum


Photograph (top) of a Red-eyed Vireo at Fontenelle Forest, Sarpy Co 26 May 2011 by Phil Swanson.

Literature Cited

Gill, F., and D. Donsker (Eds). 2017. IOC World Bird List (v 7.3), accessed 30 January 2018.

Grzybowski, J.A. 1990. Southern Great Plains Region. American Birds 44: 454-457.

Mollhoff, W.J. 2001. The Nebraska Breeding Bird Atlas 1984-1989. Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union Occasional Papers No. 7. Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.

Mollhoff, W.J. 2016. The Second Nebraska Breeding Bird Atlas. Bull. Univ. Nebraska State Museum Vol 29. University of Nebraska State Museum, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.

Rosche, R.C. 1982. Birds of northwestern Nebraska and southwestern South Dakota, an annotated checklist. Cottonwood Press, Crawford, Nebraska, USA.

Recommended Citation

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen. 2021.  Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus). In Birds of Nebraska — Online.

Birds of Nebraska – Online

Updated 5 Jun 2021