Blue-headed Vireo (Vireo solitarius)
Mendoza Ranch, Point Reyes National Seashore, County, California
1 October 2004
Joseph Morlan

Photos © 2 October 2004 by Les Chibana. All rights reserved.
This morning Robbie Fischer and I drove out to Point Reyes hoping to find vagrant rarities. The combination of high overcast skies and light southerly winds at this time of year has proven to be highly favorable for finding rarities at Point Reyes and today did not disappoint. By early afternoon we had been fortunate to see a Veery, two Black-and-white Warblers, 2 Indigo Buntings, a Black-throated Blue Warbler, a Tennessee Warbler and a Chestnut-sided Warbler. When we arrived at Mendoza Ranch we met George Griffeth who said that he had convinced himself that he had seen a Blue-headed Vireo along with the Chestnut-sided Warbler that was at Mendoza (Historic B Ranch).

Robbie and I were unable to find the vireo before we headed to Drake's Beach for lunch, but Jim Holmes stayed behind and located the vireo which he said he was 99% sure was a Blue-headed. We headed back to the area across from the houses where Jim had seen the bird and I got good but brief views in the cypresses adjacent to the mail boxes. The bird moved around a lot, but we got several additional views before the other observers (Jim Holmes, Steve Howell, etc.) left. It was then that I got my best views of this interesting bird as it came down on the ground in a clump of New Zealand Spinach, foraging within a few feet of me under perfect lighting conditions.


A medium-sized Vireo with yellow wing-bars and distinct white spectacles, clearly of the Blue-headed / Cassin's type.

The head was slate-blue contrasting strongly with the white spectacles and white throat. I paid particular attention to the malar region and found no blending between the slate-blue head and the white throat. The demarcation was nice and crisp. The head contrasted with the lime-green back although there was slight blending of colors in the nape region. This lime-green coloration connected down the sides where it penetrated the bright yellow coloration on the sides, flanks and vent, forming faint green blotches on the sides. The rest of the underparts were white save for a few dingy markings across the chest.

The legs were bright blue with distinctly scaled plates. I was pleased to note the the tail had white outer edges to the outermost rectrices that extended all the way to the tip of the tail, a character I have not been able to see before in the field. Otherwise there were no tail spots. The wing-bars were a nice yellow color as were the edges to the secondaries and tertials.

The bird was silent.


This is a tricky identification because some Cassin's Vireos can be unusually bright and a some birds must be left unidentified. Fortunately I had just seen a typical Cassin's Vireo at the Fish Docks earlier in the day and the difference between that bird and this bird was very striking. I feel that this bird was a typical fall Blue-headed Vireo and that its coloration and pattern fell well outside the range of Cassin's Vireo and were typical of Blue-headed Vireo.

Interestingly another Blue-headed Vireo was reported from Bodega Bay today.


This bird was still present the next day. Photos and more information by Les Chibana are here.