Bird of the Week: Hutton’s Vireo

What are we to make of the mysterious Hutton’s Vireo? This small, undistinguished bird does not even appear in my 2014 printing of the Sibley Guide to Birds of the Eastern United States. Its preferred habitat is a mixed woodland with conifers and evergreen oaks–sounds pretty much like western Travis County, only the Hutton’s is mainly found on the Pacific coast and northern Mexico. However, sometime around ten or fifteen years ago, they got the message that Austin was the next big thing, and, like so many Californians around that time, headed east. A look at the sightings on eBird shows more annual observations in any of the past ten years than in the entire preceding century! While the Hutton’s is still far from a common bird in Travis County, you may have seen one and not known what it was (again, much like Californians), since Hutton’s Vireos are very similar in appearance and behavior to Ruby-crowned Kinglets, with whom they frequently associate. The best way to tell the two apart is by voice: though the song of the Hutton’s Vireo has been called “persistent but insipid” by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the birds themselves seem quite fond of it, singing it loudly, all day long.

Compiled by Owen Moorhead. Sources include the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society.