Jun 08 2011

I Am Green

Published by at 6:50 am under Songbirds


Surrounded by green, the warbling vireo is gray.

He has no bold face pattern, no wing bars, no striking color on his breast but his name, vireo, means “I am green.”  

Vireo comes from the Latin word for green: virens.   The other eastern members of this genus have olive-green backs.

Do you think the warbling vireo is dull?  Not when he sings. 

Unlike the greenish vireos this one has a peppy song with a complex rhythmic structure and continuously changing set of figure patterns.(*)   He sings themes and variations all around his territory, even from the nest.

Birders have tried to describe his song with mnemonics.  The classic descriptions are: “If I sees you, I will seize you, and I’ll squeeze you till you squirt!” or “Iggley, pigelly, wigelly, pig.”

But I think of it as:  “If I see her I will squeeze her, I will squeeze her ’til she squeaks!”

Listen to him here.

His song is so fancy he doesn’t need to be green.

(photo by Kim Steininger)

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “I Am Green”

  1. Jennieon 08 Jun 2011 at 9:48 am

    What a delight listening to this little bird sing! Thanks, Kate.

  2. Joshua Schulzon 08 Jun 2011 at 10:40 am

    That’s interesting, I never knew that was where “vireo” came from. Although I maintain that their plumage leaves a lot to be desired, I agree that their song is far superior to their brightly colored relatives.

  3. Marjorie Van Tasselon 08 Jun 2011 at 9:16 pm

    One of my favorite little birds. First one I saw was up at Presque Isle, latest was up at Moraine (poor photo) walking along the bike trail near the Windsurfer’s spot (along with White-eyed Vireos singing their little hearts out too. One of Moraine’s good spots at times.
    Thanks for the info on it’s name, Kate. Always interesting and educational here.

  4. kellyon 09 Jun 2011 at 11:46 am

    I like warbling vireos too. Their “plainness” doesn’t bother me. I think they’re rather cute and engaging. The indentifying features for me in reference to their song: a varying continuous warble that always ends with a fairly emphatic ascending flourish. I don’t know if I am just more attuned to them this season, but I saw and heard tons of them this spring.

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