Yellow-throated Vireo (Vireo flavifrons)

Photo by Dennis Malueg
Yellow-throated Vireo by Dennis MaluegYellow-throated Vireo distribution map


Population Information 

Federal BBS information can be obtained at by clicking on Trend Estimates and selecting the species in question. All estimates are for 1966-2005.

Life History

Habitat Selection

The Yellow-throated Vireo occurs in mature deciduous woods, particularly oak-dominated woodlands (Robbins 1991). In Wisconsin Mossman (1988) found this species to be common in mature, open southern floodplain forests. Breeding territories in Wisconsin generally have larger trees, more white oaks, and fewer shrubs than surrounding microhabitats (Ambuel and Temple 1983). Bond (1957) found Yellow-throated Vireos associated less with dense, moist stands of sugar maple and more with forests and edges of intermediate maturity and moisture in southern Wisconsin. Although it is attracted to large tracts of forest, the Yellow-throated Vireo is more common along forest edges and streams than is the Red-eyed Vireo (Rodewald and James 1996). It is replaced by the Blue-headed Vireo in the coniferous forests of the northern counties (Mossman and Lange 1982).

Habitat Availability

Although not common anywhere in the state, Yellow-throated Vireo has been documented in every county in Wisconsin (Robbins 1991). The large deciduous forest tracts that are preferred by this species occur in southwest, central, and northern Wisconsin (Robbins 1991, Volkert 1992). However, Yellow-throated Vireo is largely restricted to upland sites dominated by oak woodlands and mature floodplain forests – both of which become less common as you go north in Wisconsin. The Yellow-throated Vireo is considered an area-sensitive species (Rodewald and James 1996). Robbins (1979) found that forests smaller than 100 hectares (247 acres) in the Northeast supported significantly fewer Yellow-throated Vireos. Relatively few nesting opportunities exist in predominantly agricultural or urban areas where forests are highly fragmented.

Population Concerns

Yellow-throated Vireo populations are increasing in Wisconsin and throughout much of their range (Rodewald and James 1996, Sauer et al. 2005). However, a study by Askins et al. (1990) found a sharp decrease in Yellow-throated Vireo populations specifically in the fragmented forests of the eastern United States. During the six-year period (1995-2000) of the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas, observers recorded breeding evidence in more than half of the surveyed quads (Lesher 2006).  

Forest maturation after logging likely has been beneficial to the Yellow-throated Vireo. The termination of pesticide applications against beetle vectors of Dutch elm disease also may have contributed to the success of this species. In some regions, the change to more selective logging practices has created more abundant forest openings attractive to this species (Rodewald and James 1996). Morton (1992) ranked this species as highly vulnerable to tropical deforestation.

Recommended Management

While typically associated with forest edge, this species may require large blocks of intact forest interior habitat or high percentages of regional forest cover to breed successfully (Rodewald and James 1996). Management efforts should focus on conserving large tracts of oak dominated woodland and floodplain forest south of the tension zone. Excessive forest fragmentation makes areas unsuitable for this species and exposes nests to Brown-headed Cowbird parasitism. Conservation and management strategies for this species should be focused on the following Wisconsin ecological landscapes: Central Sand Plains, Central Sand Hills, Southwest Savanna, Western Coulees and Ridges, and Western Prairie. Kettle Moraine State Forest is considered an important area for breeding Yellow-throated Vireos (Volkert 1992).

Research Needs

Research is needed regarding habitat preferences, sensitivity to tropical forest logging and fragmentation, foraging behavior, and diet on the wintering grounds. Within its breeding range, research is needed into the optimal mixture of mature forest and forest edge habitat for this species, and how such habitat preferences may vary regionally (Rodewald and James 1996).

Information Sources


Contact Information

Kreitinger, K., Y. Steele and A. Paulios, editors. 2013.
The Wisconsin All-bird Conservation Plan, Version 2.0. Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative.
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Madison, WI.

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