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Bartram's Vireo, or Greenlet

Bartram's Vireo, or Greenlet

The definitive website on wildbirds & nature

Birds of America

By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.


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[Red-eyed Vireo (see also Red-eyed Vireo).]

[Vireo olivaceus.]


This species has been named as above by my friend WILLIAM SWAINSON, Esq., from whom I received a specimen procured in Mexico, which corresponds in every respect with those which I have myself procured in the States of New Jersey and Kentucky. I consider it as a species generally overlooked in America, confounded with, or mistaken for, the Red-eyed Vireo; but I have not been able to ascertain its range with us, although I strongly suspect that it proceeds very far northward as well as westward.

A remarkable difference between this and the Red-eyed Vireo is, that it rarely if ever ascends even moderately tall trees, as the latter is wont to do, but almost constantly remains in low and close thickets, in the manner of the White-eyed Vireo, of the petulance and activity of which it also possesses a portion, as well as its disregard of the approach of man, or indeed of any other intruder. I have not unfrequently remained a considerable time, within a few yards of one, listening with delight to its sweetly varied and plaintive notes, which it poured forth just as if no enemy were near, and now and then peeped at me as if it wished that we were better acquainted.

The nest of this bird is seldom placed at a greater height from the ground than four feet. In two instances I have found it attached to two strong blades of coarse grass growing from beneath a thicket of brambles, not above two feet from the earth. It is truly pensile, about three inches deep, and formed wholly of slender grasses and fibrous roots. The eggs are usually pure white, without any spots or dots. I have not been able to ascertain if it breeds twice in the season, although I suspect it does.

There is a greater difference as to colour between the sexes of this species than between those of the Red-eyed. The female is generally much less pure in its tints, while the males have usually much more of a yellowish tint on their upper and under plumage than is observed in the same sex of the other species.

VIREO BARTRAMII, Swains., BARTRAM's GREENLET, Swains. and Rich. F. Bor. Amer., vol. ii. p. 235.

BARTRAM's VIREO, Vireo Bartramii, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. v. p. 296.

Adult Male.

Bill of moderate length, strong, rather broader than high at the base, compressed toward the end; upper mandible with the dorsal line descending and slightly convex, the tip very narrow, acute, declinate, the ridge very narrow, the sides a little convex, the edges sharp, overlapping, with a slight notch close to the tip; lower mandible with the angle of moderate length and rather narrowed, the dorsal line ascending and slightly convex, the back narrow, the sides convex, the edges inclinate, the tip acute and ascending. Nostrils basal, oblong, operculate.

Head rather large, ovate; neck short; body rather stout. Feet of ordinary length; tarsus compressed, with seven anterior broad scutella, edged behind; toes slender, the first strong, the second much shorter than the fourth; claws rather stout, much curved, compressed, laterally grooved, acute.

Plumage soft and blended. Wings of moderate length, the first quill a twelfth and a half shorter than the fifth, three-twelfths shorter than the second, which is equal to the third, and exceeds the fourth only by a quarter of a twelfth. Tail rather long, nearly even, the lateral and middle feathers equal, and one-twelfth shorter than the longest.

Bill brown above, pale bluish-grey beneath. Feet bluish-grey. The general colour of the plumage above is light yellowish-olive, the crown of the head deep grey, bordered on each side by a line of blackish, below which is a line of yellowish-white passing from the nostril over the eye, the loral space dusky. Quills brown, yellowish-olive on the outer margin, whitish on the inner. Tail wood-brown, margined with paler. The lower parts are white, the breast tinged with pale yellow, the throat and sides with grey.

Length to end of tail 4 7/8 inches; extent of wings 7 3/4; bill along the ridge 6/12, along the edge of lower mandible (8 1/2)/12; wing from flexure 2 9/12; tail 2 (1 1/2)/12; tarsus 8/12; hind toe 3/12, its claw (2 3/4)/12; middle toe (5 1/2)/12, its claw (2 1/4)/12.

This species is almost exactly similar to Vireo olivaceus in colour, but is considerably smaller, and differs in having the wings shorter, with the first quill considerably shorter than the fifth, whereas in that species it is always much longer, generally exceeding even the fourth.

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