Least Bell’s Vireo

Endangered Species of the Week: Least Bell’s Vireo

One in a series of articles spotlighting endangered, threatened, and species of special concern that would be endangered by industrial-scale energy projects in the High Mojave Desert.

John J. Audubon named this sly, silver-tongued, seven-inch songbird for John Graham Bell, who accompanied Audubon on an outing in the 1840s. The “least” is a slightly larger subspecies of the Bell’s vireo, which breeds entirely in California and Baja California.

Least Bell’s vireo has been listed as a federally endangered species since 1986, when it nearly went extinct. Since then, numerous developments in California have been stopped to protect their nesting areas.

Both sexes look similar, with short, rounded wings, a relatively long tail, dark brown eyes, a grayish-black bill, and legs and feet that are dark grayish-blue to black. The males are quite territorial—they will defend the nest by chasing or counter-singing.

They love their habitat around the Mojave River, and would be drastically affected by the construction upheaval and subsequent presence of a huge wind turbines in their territory. Data collection on color-banded birds shows that they return not only to the same area, but to the exact same shrub where they built their nest the year before. They like the cover of dense foliage with a canopy overhead to provide the insects they feed on.

We are committed to ensuring that this vireo will have its home to return to every year and does not fall prey to any industrial-scale energy project that targets the fragile High Mojave Desert.


Leave a Comment