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New Jersey Endangered and Threatened Species Field Guide

Image of An adult male blue-headed vireo.Zoom+ An adult male blue-headed vireo. © Blaine Rothauser

Blue-headed vireo

Vireo solitarius

Species Group: Bird

Conservation Status

State: Special Concern (Breeding)



The blue-headed vireo is a small migratory songbird about 5 to 6 inches in length. It has a blue-gray head, olive back, and white throat. It also has white “spectacles” and two white wing bars. Both sexes look alike.

Image of Range of the blue-headed vireo in New Jersey.Zoom+ Range of the blue-headed vireo in New Jersey.


The breeding range of the blue-headed vireo includes central and southern Canada from eastern British Columbia in the west to western Newfoundland in the east. Breeding range in the U.S. includes the northern Midwest as well as New England and the Mid-Atlantic states extending southwestward along the Appalachian Mountains to northern Georgia. It winters in Central America, eastern Mexico, and the southern U.S. as far north as southeastern Virginia.

Breeding habitat is mixed coniferous-deciduous forests. During the winter, their habitat consists of various types of forests and woodlands, but they favor forests with tall oaks and pines.


The blue-headed vireo eats mostly insects as well as some spiders and small fruits. They forage amongst the foliage and branches of trees and shrubs, usually mid-level within the forest.


The breeding season for the blue-headed vireo in New Jersey is between early-April and mid-August. Nests are usually constructed in a twig fork of a shrub or a conifer between 6 to 15 feet above the ground, but sometimes as high as 40 feet. Between 3 to 5 eggs are usually laid. Incubation is by both sexes and lasts about 15 days. The young are cared for by both parents and are ready to fly at about 13 days old.


The blue-headed vireo has undergone population declines in some portions of its range, most likely due to habitat loss and forest fragmentation within its breeding range. This species prefers large areas of forest with intact, closed tree canopies. Forest fragmentation leaves nests vulnerable to predation as well as nest parasitism by brown-headed cowbirds (Molothrus ater), for which they are a common host. Deforestation may also pose a threat within their winter range.

The blue-headed vireo is listed as a Species of Special Concern in New Jersey (not yet endangered or threatened but possibly on its way). Preservation of large areas of intact habitat benefits this species since such areas enable them to breed and raise offspring more successfully.

Text written by Michael J. Davenport in 2011.

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
    Phylum: Chordata
       Class: Aves
          Order: Passeriformes
             Family: Vireonidae
                Genus: Vireo
                   Species: V. solitarius

Find Related Info: Migratory songbirds, Special concern

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