WatchList Species Account for Black-capped Vireo
(Vireo atricapillus)

Qualifies for the list as a Red List Species

Photo: © Patricia Velte, - All rights reserved

The Black-capped Vireo breeds only in Texas (principally the Edwards Plateau), three counties in central Oklahoma, and a small area of north-central Mexico. Populations are disjunct and thought to be declining. Nesting primarily in low scrubby deciduous growth, it formerly bred in Kansas but has been extirpated there. Commonly it is found in areas which have been recently burned; fire suppresses invading junipers and enhances growth of fire-adaptive oaks, creating good vireo habitat. Nestlings are sometimes killed by fire ants. It winters in western Mexico. Its range is shrinking and fragmented due to human activities.

Major causes of decline are nest parasitism by the Brown-headed Cowbird which may affect up to 90% of nests in an area, destruction of habitat for agriculture and residential development, and fire suppression. Domestic cats are known to prey on vireos near human settlements. The bird is listed as Endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

Cowbird control is an essential conservation measure for the species; others are prescribed burns and fire ant control. These measures are in place at several important sites for the birds, such as Fort Hood Military Installation, Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge, and Kerr Wildlife Management Area. These measures have in some cases resulted in dramatic increases in the vireo’s numbers.