Blue-gray Gnatcatcher: Small, flycatcher-like perching bird, blue-gray upperparts, white underparts, prominent white eye-ring. Wings are dark. Black tail is long and white-edged. Forages in thickets, trees and shrubs for insects, their eggs and larvae. Weak fluttering flight on shallow wing beats.
Range and Habitat
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher: Breeds from southern Oregon, Wyoming, Minnesota, the Great Lakes region, southern Ontario, and New Hampshire southward. Spends winters from southern California to the Gulf coast and the Carolinas. Preferred habitats include deciduous woodlands, streamside thickets, live oaks, pinyon-juniper, and chaparral.
Gnatcatchers and Gnatwrens (Polioptilidae)
The one hundred eighteen families in the taxonomic order PASSERIFORMES (pronounced pas-ser-i-FOR-meez) include a variety of small perching birds such as the kinglets as well as large birds such as the crows and jays.
In the Polioptilidae (pronounced poh-lih-OP-til-uh-dee) family, there are fifteen species found in North and South America.
In North America, four species of the Polioptilidae family have occurred. The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher is the most widespread with a summer range that covers much of the United States.
The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher is known for its feisty, active mannerisms. The cocked and spread tail, scolding call notes, and thin black eyebrow of the male give this tiny bird an angry appearance.
Members of the Polioptilidae are small, active birds with fairly long legs, and strong feet that suit their arboreal nature. They have thin, medium length bills and rather short wings. They have long tails that are typically cocked.
Gnatcatchers are mostly gray and white with black markings on the face, crown, and tail. Most species also have white eye rings and white markings in the tail. Gnatwrens are browner overall, with longer bills and shorter tails.
In North America the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher is found in eastern deciduous forests and arid habitats of the southwest. The three other species of gnatcatchers are found in the deserts of the southwestern states south to Mexico.
The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher migrates to the southern United States and Mexico during the winter.
Gnatcatchers do not nest in colonies but often join flocks comprised of assorted species of small birds that forage together for protection from predators. They often forage for invertebrates by gleaning them from the vegetation of trees and bushes.
In the United States, the California Gnatcatcher is listed as threatened because of destruction of its shrubland habitat in southern California. Although most other members of this family are doing well, the Iquitos Gnatcatcher is critically endangered. Only described in 2005, this little known species is very rarely seen in its threatened, white sand forest habitats.
Like the fantails of Asia and the Slate-throated Redstart, gnatcatchers often spread their tails to flash the white feathers while foraging. This may be a strategy to scare insect prey out into the open from their hiding places.