Black-Capped Vireo

Vireo atricapilla

Listed as Endangered in 1987, the Black-Capped Vireo population once reached very low numbers. With intensive efforts to preserve habitat and reduce nest parasitism by cowbirds, they recovered sufficiently to be removed from the list in 2018. But they are still on the Partners in Flight “Yellow Watch List”.

These birds are master skulkers. They gravitate to thick scrub and can be hard to see. Often from obscure perches, breeding males sing their long, varied songs through the heat of the day.

Rarely in nature do similar species occupy the same habitat and eat the same food, but some vireos manage it. We sometimes find Black-capped Vireos nesting near White-Eyed, Bell’s, Gray, Yellow-Throated, and Red-Eyed Vireos. They may even share the same nesting bush with some of these fellow vireos. These birds also forage in similar habitats (low, scrubby brush).

The Black-Capped Vireo is the only vireo that shows sexual dimorphism. This means the male and female look different. The male takes two years to reach adult plumage. No other vireo species takes so long.

Taxonomists recognize no subspecies of Black-Capped Vireo (they are monotypic). But some researchers believe they could be near relatives to Dwarf Vireos of southern Mexico. Both birds are similar in size, eye color, and plumage. But they differ in cap color.

I looked for Black-Capped Vireos at Kickapoo Caverns State Park in 2021, 2022, and again in 2023. On my first visit, I met these elusive songsters, but true to their reputation, they remained concealed in the dense brush, and I failed to capture any images of them. My visit was ill-timed, in that it was on a Wednesday, and the park is only open Friday through Monday. So I left the region without any pictures of these rare-ish birds.

My 2022 visit came after a tour of the Canadian Yukon and the Prairie Provinces. I arrived at Kickapoo too late in the season to meet the vireos. But my 2023 tour of the Midwestern USA, Ontario Canada, and the Appalachian Mountains was better timed. I found accommodations for my RV in nearby Brackettville at Fort Clark and stayed for four days. This time, when I found the birds, I was more successful in my quest for images.

Range Map for Black-Capped Vireo
Range Map

11 Photos

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