Philadelphia Vireos

The Philadelphia Vireo, Vireo philadelphicus, is a small songbird. Adults are mainly olive-brown on the upperparts with yellow underparts; they have dark eyes and a grey crown. There is a dark line through the eyes and a white stripe just over them. They have thick blue-grey legs and a stout bill.

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 4.75 inches
  • Thick bill with hooked upper bill
  • Sexes similar
  • Dark eye
  • Bold white supercilium (line above eye) offset by dark eyeline but without dark stripe above
  • Dark lores (the regions between the eyes and bill on the side of a bird’s head)
  • Olive upperparts
  • Yellow underparts, most concentrated on breast
  • No wing bars
  • Blue-gray legs

Similar Species:

Members of the Red-eyed Vireo complex have bolder supercilia that are bordered above (and below) by black stripes, red eyes as adults, and mostly white underparts.

Warbling Vireo is very similar, especially fall immatures which can have quite yellow underparts. Note the pale lores (the regions between the eyes and bill on the side of a bird’s head) of Warbling Vireo and the tendency for any yellow to be concentrated on the belly and flanks rather than the breast.

Tennessee Warbler is quite similar but has a thinner pointed bill. All other vireos have wing bars.

Philadelphia Vireo, Vireo philadelphicus

Breeding / Nesting:

Their breeding habitat is the edges of deciduous and mixed woods across Canada.

They make a basket-shaped cup nest in a fork of a tree branch, usually placed relatively high.

Distribution / Range

These birds migrate to Mexico and Central America.

This vireo is a very rare vagrant to western Europe.


They forage for insects, but also eat berries, especially before migration.

Call / Song:

These birds sometimes imitate the calls of Red-eyed Vireos.

Photo of author

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