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Black-capped Vireo

Vireo atricapilla

The black-capped vireo (Vireo atricapilla) 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 is now endangered in Oklahoma and much of the northern, eastern, and central portions of its range in Texas. Prior to being listed as endangered, less than forty birds were found in the state of Oklahoma in 1985. Among the most influential factors contributing to its decline are: 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 Federally endangered, migratory bird whose largest breeding population in Oklahoma is found within the Wichita Mountains. These birds visit the Refuge from March to September each year to find a mate, rear young, and travel south to wintering habitat in Mexico. The black-capped vireo has been designated an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is a focus of extensive habitat restoration and other management decisions on which this species depends. Habitat management activities such as prescribed burning and mechanical treatments restore habitats 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 to increase after singing by other local species has waned.

After more than 30 years of recovery, the status of the black-capped vireo is more secure. Population estimates from recent black-capped vireo surveys have ranged from 3,572 to 5,260 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.

Thanks to the dedication and perseverance of our partners, as of December 2016, the Service is able to announce that we are proposing to delist the black-capped vireo from the ESA due to recovery.

Facts About Black-capped Vireo



4.5 inches


Breeding Season

Late April - Mid to Late July


Last Updated: Dec 14, 2016
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