[Tweeters] Probable vireo ID help needed for Deer Park sighting

Nita Hamilton hamiln at u.washington.edu
Fri Aug 13 23:46:15 PDT 2010

Hi fellow Northwest Birders!

I'd like some input about what I believe was a vireo that I watched this morning for about 5 minutes in the black elderberry by our patio. We live in the Williams Valley west of Deer Park. Unfortunately, I have no pictures, only written notes.

Behavior and Back: It was a small vireo-like bird frentetically gleaning insects. Mostly it appeared quite uniformly light olive-gray backed, in the shadows of the black elderberry. On the occasions when sunlight hit it, the bird showed some yellowish wash on about the lower 3rd of its back and on its shoulders. There were 2 distinct bars on the yellowish-washed wings. Its tail seemed to be short, but that might have been because it was a small bird whose tail was always in motion, wagging sideways, flicking, and spreading revealing a rounded "notch". I've seen few birds with such an actively "twitching" tail!

Head: The color of the top of the head appeared about the same as the color of the back. It was not blue or brown. It had a pale eyeline that ended at the back of the eye just where a pencil-thin dark eyeline began. There was white around the eye except in the back, but it was not at all a "circle". The lores were pale, as the face also appeared to be. The throat was whitish. The bill was thick and seemed mostly flesh or pinkish. Because of its extreme activity level and burying its head on the lower side of the leaves, it was impossible to get any totally satisfactory look at its head because it never sat still.

Body: Below the throat the upper breast was diffused with yellow and pale gray, the yellow cast continuing down the flanks beneath the wings. The rest of the breast was whitish, continuing through undertail coverts.

I will tell you what I think it was not. It was not a Red-eyed, Warbling, or Cassins vireo. Not a Hutton's. It was not a warbler or a Ruby-crowned Kinglet; the bill was too heavy. Mostly what "bothered" me was the eyeline that ended abruptly at the back of the eye but the lack of that eyeline "continuing" into an eyering, the distinct wingbars, as well as its hyperactivity.

I'd appreciate comments and conjectures about this sighting, as well as any questions.

Thanks all!

Nita Hamilton
Deer Park, WA

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