Plumbeous Vireo

Vireo plumbeus
Range Map

The Plumbeous Vireo, along with the Blue-Headed and Cassin’s Vireos, form a trio that, prior to 1997, were lumped together as a single species: the Solitary Vireo. Each of the three have visual differences to help distinguish them from each other, but they also have general regional distinctions. The Cassin’s Vireo is more of a western bird, the Plumbeous a mid-content bird, while the Blue-Headed Vireos live in a more eastern region of North America. All three members issue songs that sound remarkably similar. I liken their songs to a “call-and-answer” sequence, beginning with an up-slurred “two-wheet” question, followed by down-slurred “two-woo” answer.

The first Plumbeous Vireo I met was atop Santa Rosa Mountain (Riverside County, California) in June 2014. When I showed the images to my friend Phil at the San Diego Natural History Museum, he assured me that the species has been expanding its range west and south. While my sighting documented its presence for the first time in the region, it was not unexpected.

Today’s science recognises up to six subspecies of Plumbeous Vireo:

  • V. p. plumbeus breeds in the Great Basin and Central Rockies of the USA, central Arizona and west Texas, and south to Mexico. They spend winters from southern Arizona and sometimes south through western Mexico.
  • V. p. gravis is resident in northern Puebla and Veracruz (Mexico).
  • V. p. montanus lives in southern Mexico and south to Honduras and Nicaragua.
  • V. p. notius lives in Belize (Central America).
  • V. p. pinicolus lives in northwestern Mexico.
  • V. p. repetens lives in central Mexico.

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