Black-capped Vireo

Vireo atricapilla

As of May 16, 2018 the Black-capped vireo (Vireo atricapilla) was officially removed from the Endangered and Threatened Species List. The delisting of the black-capped vireo would not have been possible without the efforts of our partners including the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Fort Hood, Fort Sill Army Base, Mexico, The Nature Conservancy, Environmental Defense Fund, private landowners and others.

After more than 30 years of recovery, the status of the black-capped vireo is more secure. Recent population estimates range from 7,000 to 8,000 nesting pairs residing on the Refuge. Efforts at controlling nest parasitism and improvement of nesting habitats have made the black-capped vireo a true endangered species success story.

The black-capped vireo breeds in a relatively narrow area of the south-central United States and north-central Mexico. It was likely extirpated from Kansas by the 1930’s and was previously listed as endangered within its range in Oklahoma and Texas. In 1985 less than 40 birds were found in the state of Oklahoma. Among the most influential factors contributing to its decline were: nest parasitism by the brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater), habitat deterioration through destruction, and natural successional changes resulting from fire suppression.

The black-capped vireo is a migratory bird whose largest breeding population in Oklahoma is found within the Wichita Mountains. These birds visit the Refuge from early April to late August each year to find a mate, rear young, and travel south to wintering habitat in Mexico. Habitat management activities such as prescribed burning and mechanical treatment of Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) have helped restore habitat to their historic conditions, thereby benefiting black-capped vireos.

Unlike other vireos, this species shows distinct plumage differences in cap color between the sexes. In addition, males exhibit delayed-plumage maturation (first-year males have gray napes). During the breeding season, male black-capped vireos sing persistently well into the heat of the day, the intensity of their singing seeming increases after singing by other species has waned.

Facts About Black-capped Vireo



4.5 inches


Breeding Season

Late April - Mid to Late July