The tiny Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher is like a hyperactive child; it is always in constant motion. You will most likely see it while it is busily foraging insects from the undersides of leaves. You will also notice that it has a habit of flicking its tail from side to side. This is not an easy bird to photograph because of its small size. You have to be very quick! We’ve had trouble finding this Gnatcatcher in our area, but we’ll keep looking.
The Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher is a blue-gray bird with a long tail and is only about 4″ long. It has white under parts and a distinctive white eye-ring. The tail is dark in the center with white outer tail feathers. The bill is small and thin. In breeding plumage, the male’s crown and head are bluish. There is a black line from the bill extending around the head at the top of the eyes to behind the eyes. In non-breeding plumage the head, face and crown are gray. The female is lighter overall than the male and has a gray face. The juvenile is like the female but has browner wings.
Range and Habitat
It is found in deciduous forests, scrublands, chaparral areas, and around oak forests. It is the only migratory Gnatcatcher and is almost always found near water. It spends its winters in the southern United States and the Gulf Coast.
These birds are usually solitary or found in pairs. Besides foraging on the leaves in the trees, it is able to hover and will catch insects in the air. It eats small insects, spiders, moths, butterflies, and bees. It holds its tail upright when foraging or defending its territory. Its voice is a soft “spee” and it mimics some sounds from other birds. It flutters its wings in flight.
Breeding and Nesting
It breeds all over the United States, except in the Great Plains. The male is very animated during the breeding season. Long before the females arrive, it stakes out his territory and loudly sings his heart out. Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers breed for life. The male brings the female to his territory and both build the nest. The nest is similar to a hummingbird’s nest and is built on a horizontal branch. It consists of grasses, plant down and spider webs and is covered with lichen. The female lays 4-5 eggs with both the parents incubating the eggs for about 13 days. The female feeds the young on the nest but when the young leave the nest, both parents will feed them until they fledge in about 10-15 days. Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers may have two broods a season.