Irate Vireo

“One misty moisty morning,

When foggy was the weather,

I chanced to meet a new bird

Clothed all in feathers…”

And so it was, in the soggy aftermath of Tropical Storm Beta. While walking past the dense dark green of the magnolia outside our kitchen window for probably the 26,280th time (twice a day times 365 days per year times 36 years) I heard an unfamiliar cry.  I stopped, eyes trained on the tree, watching for telltale movement.  First I spied the cause—a blue jay, guilt written all over his hasty flight. Ignoring his departure, I kept watching.  Ah!  A bird new to me, gray above, whitish below, about 6 inches long. Unmistakable eye line.  Something in my poet-soul said, “Vireo.”  Something in my scientist-soul said, “Let’s not be hasty.” Half-confident, I went to my Sibley guide and scanned the Vireo section.  And there it was: Red-eyed Vireo. Sometimes poets just know. And science refines the knowing. Wonderful!

David Allen Sibley says that when agitated the red-eyed vireo says “rreea.”  Hmmm. Was that what I heard? I mean, what does rreea even sound like?

Next I checked Cornell’s online site. What Sibley calls “rreea” Cornell describes like this:

“A loud, catbird-like myaah call punctuates many social interactions. Both sexes use it to emphasize warning displays toward potential predators or interlopers.”

 I’m pretty confident now in my ID, not least because when I heard the outcry I thought of a remark my dusky darling catbirds might make. But more pointed. “Myaah!  Take that, you dang interloping potential predator blue jay!”

But wait, there’s more to say about the social language of the red-eyed vireo:  “Males and females sometimes snap their bills in flight as they swoop at intruders and predators.”

“I warn, I swoop, I SNAP my bill at you!” This much is clear: You don’t want to get on the wrong side of a red-eyed vireo.

If, however, you want to see how pretty they are, and hear their good-mood song, check out this link:

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Red-eyed_Vireo/sounds

Author: Phoebe Dishman

Phoebe H. Dishman was born and raised in Beaumont, Texas. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother. An essayist and poet, she teaches adult Sunday school, compiles a monthly prayer calendar, edits the Big Thicket Association quarterly bulletin, and keeps a keen eye and ear open for birds.

2 thoughts on “Irate Vireo”

  1. It is interesting to me that sometimes, (especially with ID’ing birds or plants or books or poems, or the name of someone I knew in my youth), I say the answer before I know it. It just jumps out of my mouth, and then I think “Wait, is that right?” It usually is, but not always, of course. But when it happens, it always startles me. Why do I remember that? How do I know that?

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  2. very cool post

    On Wed, Sep 23, 2020 at 1:06 PM Everlasting Arms wrote:

    > Phoebe Dishman posted: ” “One misty moisty morning, When foggy was the > weather, I chanced to meet a new bird Clothed all in feathers…” And so it > was, in the soggy aftermath of Tropical Storm Beta. While walking past the > dense dark green of the magnolia outside ” >

    Like

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