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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Bell's Vireo -- Vireo bellii

RANGE: Breeds from southern California (local and rare), southern Nevada, Arizona, southern New Mexico, north into the Midwest (east of the Rocky Mountains) to North Dakota and east to Illinois and south to southwestern Tennessee, Arkansas, northwestern Louisiana, Texas, and Mexico. Winters from Mexico south to Central America.

STATUS: Rare to absent from some former ranges in California, declining in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. (Some decline may result from cowbird parasitism.)

HABITAT: Throughout most its range, inhabits streamside willows. In the arid Southwest, lives along water courses and marshes where mesquite is mixed with cottonwood, saltcedar, elderberry, and desert hackberry. In the Great Plains, generally associated with thickets near streams and rivers, or with second-growth scrub, forest edges, and brush patches.


NEST: Builds a small, basketlike cup nest attached to a forked branch of mesquite, hackberry, catclaw, oak, willow, ash, cottonwood, or low shrub, usually near water and seldom more than 5 feet above the ground.

FOOD: Mostly eats animal matter (insects and spiders), gleaned from leaves and branches; also eats a few berries.

REFERENCES: Chapin 1925, Forbush and May 1955, Johnsgard 1979, Tate and Tate 1982, Verner and Boss 1980, Terrill in Farrand 1983c.

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