Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Bell's Vireo - Vireo bellii
Search Common:                 Search Scientific:
General Comments Though the Bell's Vireo nests as far east as Illinois, there are relatively few records for the southeastern United States, probably owing to it being quiet in fall, inhabiting dense thickets, and being difficult to identify. Reports/records have been increasing in the past few years, practically one per year now, and there are at least 11-12 reports as of 2023. Some of these reports have either not been accepted, or have yet to be reviewed, by the NC BRC -- because of the great rarity and difficulty in identification of this species; this is especially the case for inland reports.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SZ
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Very rare along and near the coast in fall and early winter. One was briefly seen and photographed at Carolina Beach SP (New Hanover) on 21 Sep 2006 for the state's first documented record [Chat 71:2-3 link]. Another individual was photographed by several birders and sang in response to tapes in Carteret on 4-5 Nov 2007 [Chat 72:133-35 link], [Chat 72:9 link]. The same birder who discovered the first one in 2006 found and photographed single birds at Fort Fisher (New Hanover) on two separate occasions: 1 October 2008 [Chat 74:1 link], and 16 Sep 2011 [Chat 76:32 link]. Most surprisingly because of the date, was one photographed along the causeway at Lake Mattamuskeet from 27-30 December 2009 [Chat 74:62 link]. One was seen and audio-recorded at Fort Fisher, 8 Oct 2017 [Chat 82:42 link]. One was seen at Airlie Gardens (New Hanover) on 5-6 Dec 2020, not yet reviewed by the NC BRC. A report of one singing, but not seen, at Pea Island on 25 Oct 2014 [Chat 79:49 link] likely cannot be reviewed by the NC BRC without a voice recording. Another was photographed at Run Hill State Natural Area (Dare) on 1 Oct 2022, following the passage of Hurricane Ian [Chat 87:16 link]. One was briefly seen on the southern side of Oregon Inlet (Dare) on 25 Sep 2023.
Piedmont Accidental, though unconfirmed for the province. There is a sight record at Zebulon (Wake) on 10 August 1974 [Chat 39:92-93 link]. Although accepted by the NC BRC in 1990 [Chat 54:57 link], this report was questioned by the authors of a 2008 General Field Note [Chat 72:134 link]. Another sight report was made at Sandling Beach at Falls Lake on 12 Oct 2010 [Chat 75:48 link]; it has not yet been reviewed by the NC BRC.
Mountains Accidental. One was seen and photographed on the Warren Wilson College grounds (Buncombe) from 14-16 Nov 2017* [Chat 82:42 link], [Chat 82:57 link]. This becomes the first inland documented record. Another seen in western Asheville on 8 Dec 2020 [Chat 85:70 link] needs an NC BRC review.
Finding Tips Be alert to this secretive bird in the fall near the coast, and keep a camera handy; it can be difficult to convince a records committee of just a sighting owing to the similarity to an immature White-eyed Vireo or other vireo or warbler species.
Attribution LeGrand[2024-02-10], LeGrand[2023-03-24], LeGrand[2023-03-20]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.