Vireonidae – Vireos, Greenlets & Shrike-babblers

Rufous-browed Peppershrike Cyclarhis gujanensis ©Will Price Website

The vireos, greenlets and others make up the family Vireonidae. They are small to medium-sized passerines restricted to the New World. ‘Vireo’ is a Latin word referring to a green migratory bird, perhaps the female golden oriole, possibly the European greenfinch.

They are typically dull-plumaged and greenish in colour, the smaller species resembling wood warblers apart from their heavier bills. They range in size from the Chocó Vireo, Dwarf Vireo and Lesser Greenlet, all at around 10 centimeters and 8 grams, to the peppershrikes and shrike-vireos at up to 17 centimeters and 40 grams.

Most species are found in Middle America and northern South America. Thirteen species of true vireos occur farther north, in the United States, Bermuda and Canada; of these all but Hutton’s Vireo are migratory. Members of the family seldom fly long distances except in migration. They inhabit forest environments, with different species preferring forest canopies, undergrowth, or mangrove swamps.

The resident species occur in pairs or family groups that maintain territories all year (except Hutton’s Vireo, which joins mixed feeding flocks). Most of the migrants defend winter territories against conspecifics. The exceptions are the complex comprising the Red-eyed Vireo, the Yellow-green Vireo, the Black-whiskered Vireo, and the Yucatan Vireo, which winter in small wandering flocks.

The nests of many tropical species are unknown. Of those that are known, all build a cup-shaped nest that hangs from branches. The female does most of the incubation, spelled by the male except in the Red-eyed Vireo complex.

All members of the family eat some fruit but mostly insects and other arthropods. They take prey from leaves and branches; true vireos also fly-catch, and the Grey Vireo takes 5 percent of its prey from the ground.<p

There are, according to the IOC, 63 species of Greenlets, Vireos and allies (all in the new world) in the family Vireonidae; they are listed in the species list below.

Species List

Rufous-browed Peppershrike Cyclarhis gujanensis
Black-billed Peppershrike Cyclarhis nigrirostris

Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo Vireolanius melitophrys
Green Shrike-Vireo Vireolanius pulchellus
Yellow-browed Shrike-Vireo Vireolanius eximius
Slaty-capped Shrike-Vireo Vireolanius leucotis

Slaty Vireo Vireo brevipennis
White-eyed Vireo Vireo griseus
Thick-billed Vireo Vireo crassirostris
Mangrove Vireo Vireo pallens
Providencia Vireo Vireo approximans
Cozumel Vireo Vireo bairdi
San Andres Vireo Vireo caribaeus
Jamaican Vireo Vireo modestus
Cuban Vireo Vireo gundlachii
Puerto Rican Vireo Vireo latimeri
Flat-billed Vireo Vireo nanus
Bell’s Vireo Vireo bellii
Black-capped Vireo Vireo atricapilla
Dwarf Vireo Vireo nelsoni
Grey Vireo Vireo vicinior
Blue Mountain Vireo Vireo osburni
Yellow-throated Vireo Vireo flavifrons
Plumbeous Vireo Vireo plumbeus
Cassin’s Vireo Vireo cassinii
Blue-headed Vireo Vireo solitarius
Yellow-winged Vireo Vireo carmioli
Choco Vireo Vireo masteri
Tepui Vireo Vireo sclateri
Hutton’s Vireo Vireo huttoni
Golden Vireo Vireo hypochryseus
Warbling Vireo Vireo gilvus
Brown-capped Vireo Vireo leucophrys
Philadelphia Vireo Vireo philadelphicus
Red-eyed Vireo Vireo olivaceus
Noronha Vireo Vireo gracilirostris
Yellow-green Vireo Vireo flavoviridis
Black-whiskered Vireo Vireo altiloquus
Yucatan Vireo Vireo magister

Rufous-crowned Greenlet Hylophilus poicilotis
Grey-eyed Greenlet Hylophilus amaurocephalus
Lemon-chested Greenlet Hylophilus thoracicus
Grey-chested Greenlet Hylophilus semicinereus
Ashy-headed Greenlet Hylophilus pectoralis
Brown-headed Greenlet Hylophilus brunneiceps
Rufous-naped Greenlet Hylophilus semibrunneus
Golden-fronted Greenlet Hylophilus aurantiifrons
Dusky-capped Greenlet Hylophilus hypoxanthus
Buff-cheeked Greenlet Hylophilus muscicapinus
Scrub Greenlet Hylophilus flavipes
Olivaceous Greenlet Hylophilus olivaceus
Tawny-crowned Greenlet Hylophilus ochraceiceps
Lesser Greenlet Hylophilus decurtatus

White-bellied Erpornis Erpornis zantholeuca

Black-headed Shrike-babbler Pteruthius rufiventer
Pied Shrike-babbler Pteruthius flaviscapis
Himalayan Shrike-babbler Pteruthius ripleyi
Blyth’s Shrike-babbler Pteruthius aeralatus
Dalat Shrike-babbler Pteruthius annamensis
Green Shrike-babbler Pteruthius xanthochlorus
Black-eared Shrike-babbler Pteruthius melanotis
Trilling Shrike-babbler Pteruthius aenobarbus
Clicking Shrike-babbler Pteruthius intermedius

Species Links
  • Bell's Vireo (Least Vireo) bellii pusillus

    Species Account
    The Least Bell's Vireo, Vireo bellii pusillus, is one of four subspecies of Bell's Vireo recognized by the American Ornithologist's Union (AOU 1957). It is the western-most subspecies, breeding entirely within California and northern Baja California. A second subspecies, V. bellii arizonae, has a limited distribution in California along the lower Colorado River, but occurs primarily throughout Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and Sonora, Mexico. The subspecies are believed to be isolated from one another during both the breeding and wintering seasons (Hamilton 1962).…
  • Blue-headed Vireo Vireo solitarius

    Cornell Species Account
    The Blue-headed Vireo is a common and vocal bird of northeastern forests. Formerly lumped as a "Solitary Vireo" with the more western Plumbeous and Cassin's vireos, it is now considered a separate species…
  • Hutton's Vireo Vireo huttoni

    Species Account
    A winter field identification problem in western North America (B.C. to California, west of the Cascades & Sierra Nevada) is separating Hutton's Vireo Vireo huttoni from Ruby-crowned Kinglet Regulus calendula.
  • Red-eyed Vireo Vireo olivaceus

    Species Account
    The red-eyed vireo (Vireo olivaceus) is a small American songbird. It is somewhat warbler-like but not closely related to the New World warblers (Parulidae). Common across its vast range, this species is not considered threatened by the IUCN.
  • Warbling Vireo Vireo gilvus

    Cornell Species Account
    A drab bird of riparian woodlands, the Warbling Vireo is more easily heard than seen. It has no distinctive fieldmarks, but its rapid warbling song with a accented, high-pitched last note is relatively easy to recognize….
  • Warbling Vireo Vireo gilvus

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 63

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