Sunday, August 19, 2007

Bird # 166: Black-capped Vireo

Our neighborhood keeps surprising me. I was out birding this morning and had followed the creek southeast of the T&C playing fields to the last dam. I turned around and was walking back along the tree line between the green belt and the new construction area when I heard what I thought was a White-eyed Vireo. As I walked closer I saw it moving in the lower branches of an oak and got my binoculars on it. What I saw was Black-capped Vireo! Then I tried to convince myself it was not a Black-capped Vireo. I have only a little experience with this species but I have quite a bit more experience with the similar White-eyed and Blue-headed Vireos. It was not a White-eyed -- the spectacle marks were white not yellow. And White-eyed has no cap. Blue-headed is more similar but this bird's cap was black -- not blue. The spectacles were not quite shaped right either. And the clincher? My bird had red eyes.

So I was convinced. Then I decided I should try my best to get a picture. And Black-capped Vireos are infamous for staying in deep brush and constantly moving. But I remembered years ago calling up a Black-capped Vireo at Kickapoo Caverns State Park by "pishing". This is a sound you can make that sounds something like most small birds' alarm calls or scold notes. Sometimes it has the effect of calling birds in and making them come out in the open. (I think it triggers their mobbing behavior.) So I stood still and started making "pshhhh" noises. A minute later I saw the vireo low and close in the brush. A few minutes later it moved higher and started scolding. Finally it popped out in the open and I got these grainy pictures. What luck!

There are preserves for this endangered species in the Austin area. This bird was most likely just passing through our neighborhood on its way south. We don't have the right kind of habitat for it to nest here.

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