This week’s photo, taken March 23, 2013 in Discovery Park in west Seattle, WA, features my first vireo of the year, a singing HUTTON’S VIREO.
Toward the end of my long walk through Discovery Park on Saturday, I suddenly hear a forceful 2-note song. The mystery bird repeats the short phrase again, and then again, and then over and over and over again. I step closer to the tree that is hosting the ceaseless songster that won’t shut up. Due to the incessant nature of its vocalization, it’s probably a Hutton’s Vireo. Finally, I spot movement in the back branches of the tree and, surprisingly, the little bird kindly flies towards me and perches out in the open for a few moments. Yep, it’s a HUTTON’S VIREO.
They look and behave very much like Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and along the west coast of North America where their ranges overlap, it can be challenging for bird-watchers to separate these two species by sight. Both birds move quickly from branch to branch, and they both occasionally hover like hummingbirds while foraging for food. Although the Hutton’s Vireo has a thicker bill, and the Ruby-crowned Kinglet has a dark mark below its lower wing bar, those differences are difficult to decipher when the tiny bird is moving rapidly through a tangle of tree branches.
The song can be a valuable aid to identification, so the next time you are bird-watching out west and you think you see a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, yet you hear a two-note, non-stop singer – listen! Hutton may be talking.