Bell's Vireo at Bishop's Green Gate Cottonwoods

Observers: Chris Howard
Remote Name:
Date: 12/04/02
Time: 06:44 PM

Today, 4 Dec, at lunch there was a Bell's Vireo at the Dixon Green Gate Cottonwoods. Any vireo in December is outstanding, but an endangered Bell's Vireo is exceptional. The Heindel Inyo graphs show no records past 22 Sept (from where they breed in very small numbers in southeast Inyo near Tecopa).   It's been over 100 years since Bell's Vireo bred in the Owens Valley....they were a "tolerably common" summer resident here in the late 1800's.

The first thing that caught my eye on this bird was its long tail which it wagged back and forth and held cocked up like a gnatcatcher. It was mostly gray above with only one distinctive white wingbar (lower wingbar). The upper wingbar was faint and occasionally non-apparent. Below, it was uniformly pale, almost off-white.  The face and throat were pale gray to off-white, nowhere near the darkness of Gray Vireo.  It had a simple face pattern with a split narrow white eye-ring, similar to Warbling Vireo, but much less distinctive. The bill was thick and stubby. It was about the size of nearby Yellow-rumped Warblers, but much different proportions (long, cocked tail and slimmer). It moved much more slowly and deliberately than the nearby Yellow-rumps and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. I watched if for 10 minutes, then despite 2 hours of searching by Tom Heindel and Debby Parker it was not refound.  

For a great article by Tom and Jo Heindel on Bell's Vireo in Inyo County, appearing in the March/April 2002 ESAS Eastern Sierra Wave, see