Vireo is a rare vagrant in Monterey County; records are split rather evenly
between spring and fall vagrants along the coast, but two individuals summered
(or attempted to do so). Four of the 8 records through spring 2004 were
at the Big Sur R. mouth, including three singing males between mid-May
and mid-June. This photo (left) is of one of those birds, captured
and banded by BSOL on 20 May 2004 [photo © Ventana Wilderness
Society]. It provided the 8th MTY record.
This photo of a spring male shows many of the classic features of Yellow-throated Vireo:
Yellow-throated Vireo is a nesting species of the eastern United States, barely reaching southeastern Canada, that winters from south Florida and southeast Mexico to northern South America. It is a vagrant anywhere west of the Rocky Mountains but there are about 60 California records, of which two-thirds have been in the spring. Two have wintered in southern California.
|This May 2004 vireo remained along the Big Sur River, singing from the tall cottonwoods and sycamores, through at least 24 May; it was photographed in the field on 23 May for what may be the only "field" photos of this species in the county (right; © Don Roberson). On 24 May it had joined mixed chickadee-warbler flocks by mid-day, and then was seen to drink from the edge of the Big Sur River and also bathe in the river right next to the BSOL bridge. [BSOL bands birds on the right leg, so you can't see the band in these shots.]|
was 18 years after the dead Carmel Valley bird before MTY recorded its
second Yellow-throated Vireo (right; in-hand photo at BSOL ©
Don Roberson). Big Sur Ornithology Lab (BSOL) captured this adult about
9 a.m. on 28 July, and held the bird long enough for several to arrive
to view it in hand (e.g., Jim Booker, Rita Carratello, Bob Maurer, Don
Roberson, Steve Rovell, Bill Rydell). Booker was able to age it as a first-summer
bird ("SY" in banding lingo). A number of observers followed it after its
release as it joined a flock of chickadees and bushtits along the Big Sur
River, occasionally giving a very loud, harsh, husky scold.
This vireo remained along the Big Sur River near BSOL (about a mile from the mouth) for the next six weeks, and went through a complete molt. It was recaptured twice and on its final recapture on 17 Sep was in crisp, fresh plumage. Note just how ratty and worn the bird looks in the July photo, with its tail particularly bedraggled.
Fall birds are very bright and crisp; see the description following the list of records for an example [no fall bird has yet been photographed in MTY]. Pyle's (1997) Identification Guide to North American Birds describes this species as having one complete molt each year — on the summering grounds (Jul-Sep) — and a partial molt on the wintering grounds (Jan-Apr). Hatch-year birds have a partial molt soon after fledging but retain the juvenal wings and tail to the next summer.
Here is a complete list of MTY records of YELLOW-THROATED VIREO Vireo flavifrons
The first fall record for MTY was found by Don Roberson at the Carmel River mouth 15 Oct 1999. His description follows, including his sketch that day with color pencils:
1 23 Aug 1981 Carmel Valley Mary Yegella; J.L. Dunn found dead; #PGNHM 2 28 July-17 Sep 1999 Big Sur R. mouth BSOL banded, Tenaya Gordon recaptured twice to 17 Sep 3 15-23 Oct 1999 Carmel R. mouth Don Roberson bright imm; details & sketch below 4 31 Aug-9 Sep 2000 Carmel R. mouth Jeff Barnum, Bill Hill, Rita Carratello et al. 5 17 Sep 2000 Big Sur R. mouth Chris Tenney details below 6 19 May 2001 Big Sur R. mouth Steve Rovell singing male; details below 7 8 June 2002 Big Sur R. mouth Craig Hohenberger singing male 8 20-24 May 2004 Big Sur R. mouth BSOL banded singing male; photos
VIREO Vireo flavifrons
15 Oct 1999 at Carmel River mouth, MTY, California
Rita Carratello and I decided to meet late in the afternoon of this Friday to bird the Carmel River; shortly after arriving we ran into Bill Hill and Jeff Barnum. The four of us decided to look at the ‘Odello Lagoon’ so we took the rough trail up from the riverbed to the ‘Odello parking lot’ which leads to the open fields south of the sewage treatment plant. As we crossed this old parking lot next to the treatment plant, we came upon a flock of chickadees. I went to the west end of the lot to look through them. Very shortly thereafter I spotted a bird with wingbars and a very bright yellow breast in a live oak. I called out to the group that I had a “Blackpoll or better” and then said “in fact, it's so bright it might be a Yellow-throated Vireo.” Bill Hill then refound the bird higher in the crown of the oak and stated “yes, I've got it, it's a vireo” and we were soon all have long & leisurely views of a very bright, crisp Yellow-throated Vireo. The flock was working toward the willows along the edge of the river and the vireo followed. We later had even closely and more nearly eye-level views in a willow. The flock included several Yellow-rumped & Townsend’s warblers, and bright Tennessee Warbler, along with the Chestnut-backed Chickadees. The vireo did not vocalize.
Description: A big-headed, short-tailed, medium-sized vireo --
this shape is really quite different from our usual vireos. The bird had
a heavy, hook-tipped, vireo bill; black in color. Legs were rather thick
and in good lighting were obviously blue-gray in color. A big blackish
eye dominated the face, and it was encircled with a yellow eyering with
continued over the lores as a yellow line to create prominent yellow “spectacles.”
Status: This is now the third record for Monterey County. The prior two were adults that summered (or, in the case of the one found dead in August 1981, likely summered).
— Don Roberson, Pacific Grove CA
|Chris Tenney forwarded these details of his 17 Sep 2000 bird
at Big Sur R. mouth via email:
|Don Roberson wrote these details on 19 May 2000 regarding a
singing male at Big Sur R. mouth:
"Sunny day with mild wind; birding with Rita Carratello, Dan Singer,
Joe Morlan, Robbie Fischer, Steve Rovell and others. Yellow-throated Vireo:
male singing off & on in willows on south bank of Big Sur River, and
also in sycamores; found at 6:30 a.m. by Steve Rovell. The bird is unbanded.
We eventually got fine views.
Joe Morlan has another description of this bird on his web site.
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