Nest under construction: Red-eyed Vireo

CLICK HERE to watch this video in High Definition on Vimeo

The above video was captured over a period of four and a half days from June 27-July 1, 2009. A female Red-eyed Vireo began installing the foundation of a nest in a young maple about two meters above the ground on June 27. The process in its entirety was fascinating to observe as the footage revealed subtleties of technique and the use of various materials.

The Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus) is one of the most common passerines of eastern forests in North America. A neotropical migrant, “Red-eyes” migrate to South America each autumn where they feed primarily on fruit. During the summer they are dedicated insectivores of mainly deciduous forest stands and fragments. The male Red-eyed Vireo is a vocal standout in the avian world as they hold the record for most songs per day of any bird species on the planet. In June and July the female Red-eyed Vireo builds a pensile or suspended cup nest from an outer fork of a branch-exclusively in deciduous tree species. The subject nest of this writing matches this description very closely. This particular nest was easily accessible for monitoring, providing a convenient window into the meticulous and masterful work of the nest building songbird.

I strongly recommend that you watch the HD version of the video to see the subtle movements and to appreciate the remarkable precision of the bill in manipulating nest material. The video clearly shows how important spiders and their webs are to nest construction for this and many other bird species. The female worked constantly during daylight hours over the course of four days. Review of the footage indicated that she visited the nest for periods of between three seconds to two minutes with an average of four minutes between trips. This rate would mean that just shy of 200 visits to the nest are made each day for a total of ~850 visits to complete a nest in four to five days!

5 thoughts on “Nest under construction: Red-eyed Vireo

    • Thanks barefootheart! I think next time I will aim for a top-down perspective on the nest building process, which should be even more revealing.

  1. Thank you for presenting this video. It is a rare look at the skill set accompanying the completed nests we see and wonder about.

    • I’d intended to do more of this kind of filming but wasn’t able to find the time. I’ve certainly left lots to do for next year!

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