Bird of the Month: Hutton's Vireo
By Hugh Jennings
Scientific Name: Vireo huttoni
Length 4.5-5 in
Wingspan 8 in
AOU Band code HUVI
The Hutton’s Vireo (HUVI) is 4-1/2 to 5" long with a wingspan of 8". The genus name Vireo is from the Latin meaning a kind of bird. The species name huttoni was given in 1851 by John Cassin, Philadelphia ornithologist, for William Hutton, a field collector of birds, about whom little is known. It is a small active bird that is very similar to the Ruby-crowned Kinglet but stockier. The bill is thicker than the kinglet’s and has a slight hook. It has an overall drab olive color with a rounded head and heavy bluish legs. The pale lower wing bar does not have a black bar below as does the Ruby-crowned Kinglet.
The HUVI is generally found in oak woods, moving through the trees with flocks of other small birds. Its range is the woods of the Pacific coast and the southwest. In the Pacific states it may be found in the shrubby understory of humid Douglas-fir and redwood forests. It is mostly a permanent resident but a few show up in the fall and winter along lowland streams where the bird is not present in summer.
It feeds mostly on insects, such as beetles, crickets, spiders and even caterpillars. It forages in trees and shrubs by hopping from twig to twig, pausing to look about as it searches for insects. It sometimes hovers to pick an item from the foliage.
The male sings constantly during the breeding season to defend the nesting terrority. The song is a repeated rising or descending ch-weet ch-weet, repeated in paired notes, the second note either higher or lower than the first, sometimes repeated in a continuous series for 781 times in 11 minutes (Bent,1950). The call is a low chit or whit, whit, or kip, kip, kip.
The nest is built 6-25 feet above ground, usually in oak but sometimes in conifer trees. The nest is built by both sexes and made of bark fibers, lichens, moss, and grass held together with spider webs and lined with grass. There are usually 4 eggs, sometimes 3-5, which are white with brown specks at the larger end. Both parents incubate the eggs for 14-16 days. Cowbirds often lay eggs in HUVIs nests. Both parents feed the young which leave the nest from 14-17 days after hatching. Occasionally there are two broods each year.