Fauna of the Week--The Vireo Formerly Known As Solitary

Fauna of the Week--The Vireo Formerly Known As Solitary

Once upon a time, before the days of rampant data sharing between birders and universities (and DNA profiling), there was a group of birds that had not been studied in significant numbers and so were all considered to be the same species. Those days have, evidently, passed. So the bird I once knew as a "Solitary Vireo" is now revealed to be: the

Blue-Headed Vireo

.

There's a lot to love about the Blue-headed Vireo. They tend to be long-lived. They are monogamous. They are survivors--despite being a popular cowbird host and favorite target of bluejays and crows, these little guys keep hanging in there. They belligerently defend their nests from the previously mentioned predator birds. They will typically attempt two broods per year. They are great consumers of caterpillars, which is one reason why they tend to populate moist deciduous forests. They are not easily alarmed--it is even possible to get close shots of a nesting female (with a camera, please!) without causing her to abandon her nest. (Just don't go touching anything. That old wive's tale about handled babies being abandoned by their bird mammas is true in the case of the Blue-headed Vireo.) This particular close shot was the result of a close-encounter with a large expanse of glass--fortunately, this one survived!

Nationwide, the Blue-headed Vireo is not a species of concern. In Southern Appalachia, however, there may indeed be reason to be concerned. The subspecies of blue-headed vireo here,

alticola

, is closely associated with the

Eastern Hemlock

, which is in dire straights thanks to an Asian invasive species, the

Hemlock Wooly Adelgid

.  Wikipedia mentions a study being conducted using a natural predator of the adelgid--success can't come fast enough. A close association between the two species could mean that this tough little bird becomes less common in my immediate environment.

Boo. Hiss.

This is one instance in which I will happily kill a bug. [And I have. Check

Hemlock Assassins

. 6/8/11]

I would encourage you to check the two links below--fascinating in-depth information on our little friend. Especially the

Migratory Bird Center

. If you are a fan of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, be sure to check out

Discover Life in America

.

Sources:

Discover Life in America

,

Migratory Bird Center

Flora of the Week--Passiflora Incarnata

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The Recycled Shed

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