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By Nic.Korte

I was listening for those phrases while in the aspen woods these past two weekends. I wondered if the singer had returned from the tropics. Finally, I heard it once. Soon, that call will be incessant.

I find the song pleasant now, but for a time it was quite aggravating. Being mostly deaf in one ear, despite my interests in birds and birding, I had not invested much effort in learning bird calls. I also hadn't spent much time among the aspens.

My wife and I had found a sitter for our two young children. We were going away for a night--just the two of us. As I recall, it was our first such night since our daughter was born. She was now four, and as our son's second birthday approached, we had secured a night for ourselves in a nearby mountain cabin. It was early June and the aspens resounded with a warbler-like song. Serious birders reading this may be surprised by how little I knew of birdsong. I watched birds when I could, but it was only the "catch-as-catch-can" type of birding that could occur with a job that required heavy travel, and the demands of a young family.

We had a picnic and took a short hike. I continued to hear the song, and I looked and looked for a warbler. Most warblers have some color--in our area mostly a lot of yellow (e.g. Wilson's, MacGillivray's, or Yellow Warblers.). Another thing about warblers is they never sit still. Getting a good look can be difficult, but finding them moving about in the limbs and leaves is not so hard. This time, my frustration grew and grew as I saw no color, and no movement. Fortunately, our agenda was not about birds. Mary and I thoroughly enjoyed our overnighter--becoming a couple again while we had a few hours respite from parenthood.

Nonetheless, I didn't forget the frustrating bird that seemed so abundant but couldn't be found. Some years later, as I finally learned to recognize some bird calls, I encountered the song again. Yes, it was warbler-like, but the song was too long. Eventually, I was instructed by a more experienced birder. "Oh, that's a Warbling Vireo!" Now it all made sense. Vireos and warblers are both tiny birds, but unlike warblers, vireos tend to be mostly gray and slow-moving. No wonder my search for colorful movement was futile.

 (Warbling Vireo)

A few years later, another long-time birder told me he distinguished the song by applying the phrasing: "I will squeeze you, I will squeeze you, I will squeeze you until you hurt!" He was an eastern birder. Our western Warbling Vireos, to me, sound like "I will squeeze you, I will squeeze you, I will squeeze!" Now that I finally had the song anchored in my brain, I also recognized how abundant this bird is in our aspen woods. For much of the late spring through the summer, it is difficult to be in the aspens at any time of day without hearing this song repeated tirelessly by the many Warbling Vireos. 

 (Warbling Vireo in usual aspen woods pose)

My early struggles notwithstanding, this call is an easy one to learn. It does take a little imagination, and the “I will squeeze you's” are very fast, but after a few tries, you’ll get it and the bird will always be recognizable. Check out the song on YouTube: Give it a listen, and much of the sound of our summer aspen woods will no longer be a mystery.

[The other two common vireos in our area are the Gray Vireo, and the Plumbeous (another word for gray) Vireo. There is little habitat overlap, and the calls of these two are distinctly non-musical.]

This post provided by Nic Korte, Grand Valley Audubon Society. Send questions/comments to]To learn more and to participate in the activities of Grand Valley Audubon, check the website at and “like” us on Facebook!