The Philadelphia Vireo is a migrant in Tennessee, but is often overlooked because of its resemblance to the much more abundant Red-eyed Vireo in both plumage and voice. The Philadelphia Vireo breeds across southern Canada, further north than any of the other vireo species, and winters in southern Central America. In Tennessee this vireo is most likely to be found in the western part of the state from late April to early May and then again from mid-September to mid-October.
Description: This small drab songbird has a short stout bill, a grayish-green back, is pale yellow below, has dark eyes, a dark line running through the eye, and has a white stripe over the eye. It has no wing-bars, tail-spots, or eye-ring. The male and female are alike in plumage.
Weight: 0.42 oz
Voice: The song is similar to a Red-eyed Vireo but is higher pitched, weaker and choppier.
- Red-eyed Vireo is similar in appearance but the eye is dark red in adults (juveniles have a brown eye), and there is a dark line that separates the white eye-stripe from the bluish-gray crown.
- Warbling Vireo has a less distinct facial pattern and the pale yellow below is more confined to the flanks.
- Tennessee Warbler is slightly smaller, has a thinner, more pointed bill, and a bright green back.
Habitat: Open woodland, early successional forest and forest edge, often near water
Diet: Insects, caterpillars, and some fruit.
Nesting and reproduction: The Philadelphia Vireo has not been documented nesting in Tennessee.
Status in Tennessee: Uncommon migrant across Tennessee, but more frequently encountered in the western part of the state.
Dynamic map of Philadelphia Vireo eBird observations in Tennessee
- In regions where both Philadelphia and Red-eyed Vireos are found, they can coexist in the same woodland only because the Philadelphia either excludes the Red-eyed from its territory or modifies its behavior to avoid areas where the Red-eyed forages.
- The Philadelphia Vireo gets its name because the specimen used to describe the species was collected in Philadelphia during migration by John Cassin in 1851. A nineteenth-century local name for this species was Brotherly-love Vireo.
Best places to see in Tennessee: Always difficult to see, but found in woodlands and forest edges, especially the western part of the state, during migration.
For more information:
Moskoff, W., and S. K. Robinson. 1996. Philadelphia Vireo (Vireo philadelphicus). The Birds of North America, No. 214 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.
Robinson J. C. 1990. An Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Tennessee. Univ. of TN Press, Knoxville, TN.
Sibley, D. A. 2000. The Sibley Guide to Birds. A. A. Knopf, New York, NY.
Consider using the online bird checklist program at eBird to help us understand bird populations and distributions in Tennessee. Click here to see how.