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These birds are green, but not with envy

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By Horace Brown

The family of Vireos only occurs in America, which is highly unusual, and this family haunts the higher portions of forests, where it diligently hunts for insects in bark crevices and under leaves.

The Yellow-throated Vireo particularly loves to eat horseflies, mosquitoes, hairy caterpillars off their tents and gypsy and tussock moths. Even though similar-sized wood warblers also inhabit this same type of environment, vireos appearances are somewhat different. They are bigger-headed, thicker-billed and slower moving.

The Latin word for Vireo means green, and every member of this family certainly adheres to that coloration.

The Yellow-throated Vireo, not only has a throat that is yellow but also has a yellow breast and yellow spectacles and has a very striking appearance. It has an olive green head and upper back with a gray lower back along with wing bars that are always neat and bold with a prominent white lower belly.

The Yellow-throated Vireo is a 5.5-inch-long bird with a 9.5-inch wide wingspan that has a song that seems to say, "See me; I'm here. Where are you?"

It breeds from Maine, Southwestern Quebec, Southeastern Ontario, Southern Manitoba And East Central Saskatchewan South to Northern Florida, Central Alabama, Central Louisiana and Central Texas. It winters from southern Mexico south to Venezuela.

In Kentucky, it is found pretty much statewide in the summer in mature, forested areas but is rarer in the Bluegrass area. Their return from migration occurs from mid to late April.

Nest building is usually under way by the first week of May, with clutches completed from early May to early June. They seem to change nesting areas annually, probably because of being susceptible to the Brown-headed Cowbird’s parasitization.

The nest is generally located 3 to 60 fee – but typically 20 feet – above the ground and has a character all its own. It is well-made, thick- walled, a deep cup of grasses, strips of inner bark, woven together with spider silk, plant down and shaped and suspended between the arms of a forked branch. The outside is covered with moss and lichens that serve as a type of camouflage, and the nest is lined with fine grasses. The depth of the cup is about 1.5 inches, with the height being 2.5 inches and the outside diameter being about three inches.

All of this is built mostly by the female in about a week.

After all of this hard work, the female lays three to five eggs, most commonly four eggs, that are white to creamy white with a smooth shell without gloss. They are strongly spotted with shades of brown, mostly at the larger end.

Incubation is by both sexes for 14 days.

Now you can find this bird in the summer, in wooded areas, and if you are fortunate enough to visit some of our beautiful Kentucky State Parks for a little vacation, take along your binoculars, listen intently for a somewhat soft song, high up in the trees and look for that yellow breast, spectacles and throat in the Great Outdoors.

 

To read more columns about birds by Horace Brown, visit www.SentinelNews.com/recreation. Horace Brown is a civil/sanitary engineer, land surveyor and nature photographer and writer. To contact him or order a copy of Brown’s 2014 Eagles, Falcons, Hawks & Vultures Calendar, E-mail whbrownpelpls@aol.com, call 502-682-7711 or write 527 Main St., Shelbyville 40065.