Search Field Guide
Advanced Search
MT Gov Logo
Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Plumbeous Vireo - Vireo plumbeus

Potential Species of Concern
Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S3S4B

Agency Status
PIF: 3

External Links

Listen to an Audio Sample
Copyright by Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics, Department of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, all rights reserved.
General Description
Small passerine: total length 124 to 138 mm, mass 12 to 20 g. Upperparts smooth neutral gray; rump tinged olive green. Underparts near-white; sides of breast smudged pale grayish olive; flanks very pale sulfur yellow in some individuals and dull white in others. Head has broad white supraloral stripe and eye-ring, the latter interrupted by dusky loral streak. Wings and tail blackish neutral gray, with 2 broad wing-bars; outer rectrix broadly edged white. Remiges and rectrices edged pale olive gray (appearing near-white in the field) or rarely, olive yellow. Iris brown; bill black with bluish gray base; legs grayish blue. Sexes monomorphic by plumage and size. Female distinguished by a vascularized brood patch. (Goguen and Curson 2012)

For a comprehensive review of the conservation status, habitat use, and ecology of this and other Montana bird species, please see Marks et al. 2016, Birds of Montana.

Diagnostic Characteristics
Most similar to Cassin’s Vireo, which is slightly smaller, greener on the back, slightly browner gray on the head, yellowish white wing-bars and undertail-coverts, and brighter, more extensively yellow flanks. The two species are not always distinguishable in the field. The Plumbeous Vireo also is similar to an accidental in Montana, the Blue-headed Vireo, which is slightly smaller and distinctly more colorful (bright olive green on the black with sulfur yellow flanks and yellowish undertail-coverts). (Goguen and Curson 2012)

Species Range
Montana Range Range Descriptions

All Ranges
(Click legend blocks to view individual ranges)

Western Hemisphere Range


Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 870

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density


SUMMER (Feb 16 - Dec 14)
Direct Evidence of Breeding

Indirect Evidence of Breeding

No Evidence of Breeding

WINTER (Dec 15 - Feb 15)
Regularly Observed

Not Regularly Observed


(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Migratory in the United States, but resident to the south. Generally solitary in migration. (Goguen and Curson 2012)

Breeds in warm, dry montane forests of pine, oak and juniper. Typical habitat in the U.S. is dominated by ponderosa pine. (Goguen and Curson 2012)

Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
  • Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
    How Associations Were Made
    We associated the use and habitat quality (common or occasional) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
    1. Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2012, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
    2. Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species' range and habitat requirements;
    3. Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point observation database associated with each ecological system;
    4. Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of "observations versus availability of habitat".
    Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.  In general, species were listed as associated with an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.  However, species were not listed as associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if point observations were associated with that system.  Common versus occasional association with an ecological system was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species as represented in scientific literature.  The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignment of common versus occasional association.  If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact the Montana Natural Heritage Program's Senior Zoologist.

    Suggested Uses and Limitations
    Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.  These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.  Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.  Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.  Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).  Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species' known geographic range.

    Literature Cited
    • Adams, R.A.  2003.  Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation.  Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado.  289 p.
    • Dobkin, D. S.  1992.  Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34.  Missoula, MT.
    • Foresman, K.R.  2012.  Mammals of Montana.  Second edition.  Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, Montana.  429 pp.
    • Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998.  Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates.  Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT.  1302 p.
    • Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young.  1999.  Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32.  72 p.
    • Maxell, B.A.  2000.  Management of Montana's amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species.  Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1.  Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana.  161 p.
    • Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath.  2004.  Amphibians and reptiles of Montana.  Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.

Food Habits
Diet is almost exclusively arthropods, spring through fall. Fruit and other plant materials may be important during winter. (Goguen and Curson 2012)

Males defend breeding territories. Territory size is not dependent on population density; much apparently suitable habitat is often unoccupied. (Goguen and Curson 2012)

Reproductive Characteristics
Nest is suspended by its upper rim from twigs, often toward end of live branch. Eggs are oval, white to creamy white, sparingly marked. Clutch size is usually 4. Arrival dates early to mid-May at northern and higher-elevation sites. (Goguen and Curson 2012)

Within the breeding range, the greatest threat to the Plumbeous Vireo seems to be degradation of habitat quality via the spread of Brown-headed Cowbirds. Nest parasitism has been shown to increase in proximity to livestock grazing, roads, forest openings or edges, and residential/urban areas. (Goguen and Curson 2012)

Login Logout
Citation for data on this website:
Plumbeous Vireo — Vireo plumbeus.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from