Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the April 7, 2008 Newsletter written in the community of 28 de Junio, in the Central Valley 8 kms east of Pujiltic, Chiapas, MÉXICO
about 800 meters in elevation, ± LAT. 16° 18'N, LONG. -92° 28'

Last Tuesday morning, April 1, I heard a sound that brought to mind many happy associations for me. It was the high-pitched, monotonously repeated song of a Red- eyed Vireo. Red-eyed Vireos overwinter in South America's Amazon region and nest in North America. Therefore, here you see them only when they're passing through heading north, from late March through May, then again as they return to the Amazon region, from mid-August to early November.

In my Newsletter of April 27th, 2003, issued back when I hermited in southwestern Mississippi, I reported counting 51 Red-eyed Vireos just in the piney woods around my camp. That week had been "... when forest shadows become deep and dark and honeysuckle perfume insinuated itself into every pore... " I remember that wonderful time and I remember how all those hormone- crazed Red-eyed Vireos absolutely flooded the shadowy forest with their thin, robin-like, perpetually repeated phrases. Maybe in about three weeks our Tuesday bird will find himself following the Mississippi northward, and maybe even will pause near my old hermit trailer near Natchez.

Though several vireo species overwinter here, Bell's Vireo is the only other one that's strictly a spring and fall migrant, or transient, here. Strictly transient wood-warblers include the Blackburnian, Mourning and Canada Warblers.

Red-eyed Vireos like to stay high in trees and that's why many folks who just watch birds around their feeders may have never heard of them. Still, my fieldguide describes Red-eyed Vireos as the most abundant bird in eastern deciduous forests. It's an old guide, though, from back in the 60s, and I wonder how much deforestation in the Amazon and other habitat destruction elsewhere has reduced their numbers. And now that Amazon forests are disappearing at an accelerating rate from illegal tree cutting and much more may be converted to sugarcane fields for biofuels, what's the fate of the Red-eyed Vireo?

How lucky I am to have lived a morning in Mississippi when on a single walk of only two or three hours I counted 51 Red-eyed Vireos, every one of them hungry, excited about going north, and laughably horny!