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Thick-billed Vireo Vireo crassirostris

Kathryn S. Peiman
Version: 1.0 — Published September 4, 2013


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Distribution in the Americas

In The Bahamas, occurs on all the islands and cays (Cory 1891a, b, c; Mayr 1953; Norton 1993; Radabaugh 1974; Riley 1905; Williams and Bunkley-Williams 1999).

In the Turks and Caicos, found only on the Caicos (recorded on West Caicos, Providenciales, Bay Cay, Water Cay, Pine Cay, Parrot Cay, North Caicos, Middle Caicos, East Caicos, and South Caicos) (Buden 1985).

In the Cayman Islands, currently found on Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac; was more common on Cayman Brac (Olson et al 1981).

In Haiti, only known from Tortuga Island [Ile de la Tortue], and described as abundant (Bond 1928).

In Cuba, first recorded on Paredon Grande Key [Cayo Paredon Grande] in 1989 where they were very vocal (Kirkconnell and Garrido 1991). In 1979, a group of 8 was seen foraging quietly on the river Sierra Morena (north coast of the [former] Las Villas Province); another quietly foraging group was seen on Cayo Cinco Leguas (north of Matanzas Province) (Kirkconnell and Garrido 1991). The authors argued that these were not White-eyed Vireos (Vireo griseus), as that species is not known to join flocks in the winter; however, even hatch-year Thick-billed Vireos are very territorial and are also not known to appear in groups (personal observations). Wallace et al (1999) argue that the observations of those two groups (Sierra Morena and Cayo Cinco Leguas) should not be considered confirmed sightings of Thick-billed Vireos, despite the inclusion in AOU (1998) of it being a rare winter resident in the "northern cays off the Cuban mainland" and by Raffaele et al (1998) as being "an umcommon migrant in north-central Cuba during October". Breeding has been confirmed on Cayo Paredon Grande in 1997 (Wallace et al. 1998). Their presence was confirmed in Cayo Coco in the winter of 1996, and it was suspected that these individuals dispersed from Cayo Paredon Grande (Wallace et al 1998).

On Providencia, this species was described as common and was heard singing (Russell et al 1979), though it does not have a variable song like the other subspecies. It was described as abundant on Providencia but absent from San Andres (Tye and Tye 1991), yet was included on San Andres in Hilty and Brown (1986). It is hypothesized that this subspecies is actually a race of Mangrove Vireo (Vireo pallens) (Kirkconnell and Garrido 1991).

Thick-billed Vireo is a vagrant to the United States. Three individuals were definitively recorded on Hypoluxo Island (Palm Beach County, Florida) in 1989 (Smith et al. 1990). Previous to this, there were five other reports of this species in Florida but these were not considered definitive (see Smith et al. 1990). It is unknown where these individuals came from; it is not thought they bred in Florida. Another sighting was recorded in October of 2004 on Boot Key (Monroe County, Florida) (Greenlaw 2005). An adult was banded 7 November 2005 at Bill Baggs Cape Florida SP (Miami-Dade County) (Greenlaw and Kratter 2007). Another individual was reported at Crandon Park (Miami-Dade County, Florida) on 13 November 2010 (Kratter 2012).

Distribution outside the Americas

Endemic to the Americas.


Thick-billed Vireo prefers woodlands and dense scrublands (Buden 1987, 1990). On Eleuthera Island (The Bahamas), they were more common in taller, mature vegetation than disturbed habitats (Currie et al 2005b). They were more common in mixed pine forests than pure pine or disturbed habitats on Grand Bahama and Andros Islands (Emlen 1981). On Andros Island, they were more abundant in second-growth coppice than old-growth coppice: average number of individuals detected within 100 m of survey points was 0.60 in old growth pine forest, 0.29 in second-growth pine forest, 0.45 in old-growth coppice, and 1.29 in second-growth coppice (Lloyd and Slater 2010). On San Salvador Island, they preferred thickets: birds captured/100 net hours were 2.9 (in mangroves), 9.8 (in thickets), and 2.2 (in disturbed habitats) (Murphy et al. 1998). They were significantly associated with native dry forest habitat on Middle Caicos, and were found at 136 of 152 survey points with an average of 2.28 individuals/point (Montambault 2007).

There are few sympatric vireo species. During the breeding season, Black-whiskered Vireo (V. altitoquus) coexists on Cayman Brac and some of the Bahamaian Islands, and Yucatan Vireo (V. magister) also coexists on Grand Cayman, but they likely forage higher in the vegetation (Walker 1998). During the nonbreeding season, the White-eyed Vireo (V. griseus) mainly overwinters in coppice and disturbed habitat and appear to forage higher in the coppice (KSP, unpublished data).

Pine forest Second-growth coppice

Coastal scrub Old-growth coppice

There is variation in the carbon stable isotopes of claws and feathers from individuals on North Andros Island (Bearhop et al. 2003).  The carbon isotopes of claws (1-2 mm from two toes) and body feathers were correlated among individuals, indicating that individuals tended to occupy the same type of habitat when these tissues were grown. However, the paper lacked information about when the samples were collected (i.e. what exact 2-week period during the non-breeding season), the habitats sampled, and ages of individuals (adults are more likely to be sedentary territory holders; first-years are more likely to be mobile floaters), and so only allows for limited conclusions about this species' ecology. Another study found that the carbon stable isotopes of Thick-billed Vireo claws sampled on Andros, Abaco, and Long Islands were higher in scrub than pine habitats (Bearhop et al. 2004), indicating that individuals consistently occupied either dry or wet habitats.

Historical changes

Though this species was previously recorded as common on Little Cayman, it was not found there during a 1971 (Johnson 1975) or 1975 (Diamond 1980) visit and is presumed extinct on that island.

In 1968, an individual was collected on Cay Sal (The Bahamas) and it was presumed there was a breeding population there (Smith et al. 1990). However, it was not recorded on that island around the turn of the century (Buden and Schwartz 1968), and so colonization may be recent (Smith et al. 1990).

Fossil history

No information.

Distribution of the Thick-billed Vireo
  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding
Distribution of the Thick-billed Vireo

Recommended Citation

Peiman, K. S. (2013). Thick-billed Vireo (Vireo crassirostris), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/nb.thbvir.01