Barry Kent MacKayArt by Barry Kent MacKay
Art and Photo Presentation

In this section are copies of original works of art. All of them are dedicated to helping us live according to unconditional love and compassion, which is the foundation of our peaceful means of bringing true and lasting peace to all of God's creatures, whether they are human beings or other animals.

Blue-headed Vireo (Vireo solitarius)

Blue-headed Vireo
(Artwork - 204)
Blue-headed Vireo (Vireo solitarius)

The Blue-headed Vireo (Vireo solitarius) is one of those attractive, reasonably common bird species that most folks never notice. They breed in cooler temperate forests, especially where evergreens predominate, or in mixed growth with birch and maple, alder, maples and so on. But on migration they may show up anywhere, through much of temperate eastern and south-eastern North America. The nest from the Yukon to southern Newfoundland south in the east through the mountain forests as far south as northern Georgia. They normally winter from the southern U.S., from Texas eastward, and south through much of Mexico and Central America. There are two very similar species called the Plumbeous Vireo (V. plumbeus) and the Cassin’s Vireo (V. cassinii). At one time all three were “lumped” into a single species known as the “Solitary Vireo (V. solitarius)”. But in 1997 newly available molecular research showed that they were, as had been thought to be prior to the 1950s, three distinct, but similar, species. Only the Blue-headed normally appears in the east.

These small songbirds weigh in around 13 to 19 grams (roughly around half an ounce). I have shown an adult male of the widely distributed nominate race during his fall migration, but really there is little to know difference in colour and pattern between the sexes and age groups. However, birds in the southern part of their range, in the s.e. U.S., are slightly larger with a darker back, and are assigned to a different subspecies, V. s. alticola. Found from the Appalachian Mountains south to northern Georgia, it undergoes a very short migration to the Gulf States.

Typical of vireos, the nest is a hanging cup suspended at branching twigs, where three to five eggs are deposited. It takes five to six days for the initially un-feathered babies to open their eyes, but they start fledgling as young as two weeks, both parents tending them, and helping them with food and care for another month. The species is noteworthy among songbirds for both members of the pair being entirely monogamous. They are single-brooded, but will try a second nest if the first is lost, especially if the loss is early in the season. To my ear the song sounds like carefully spaced (about a second apart) single and double and slurred notes, some sounding a little like “cheer-up”, and continuous, in typical vireo-fashion. They eat mostly insects and other arthropods but also a bit of fruit, especially in the tropical wintering range.

This painting is approximately life-size and is in oils, on birch panel mounted on a basswood frame. 

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Barry describes himself as a Canadian artist/writer/naturalist.
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