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Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher
Polioptila caerulea
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Polioptilidae

Diagnosis: The Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher is a small songbird and is 1 of 12 species belonging to the genus Polioptila. Length from head to tail is a mere 10 cm and average weight is 5-7 grams. Both males and females are a blue-gray or slate color on the dorsal side. The breast is completely white. Males are more vibrantly colored than females and exhibit a v-shaped, black unibrow, which gives them an angry appearance. The tail is long and slender, with a black top and a bottom that is white with a single dark stripe that extends the entire length. Males use the tail frequently during territorial behavior and while feeding. Both male and female have thin black beaks and white eye-rings.


Natural History: Female and male gnatcatchers both participate in nest building starting in late April or early May. The nest may take 3-10 days to build and is constructed out of spider webs, caterpillar silk, lichens, and tree bark. The nest is then lined with down feathers, hair, or soft plant material. The first nest of the breeding season may take several days longer to build then subsequent nests. Females normally lay 3-6 eggs, which are small, pale blue, and sometimes speckled. Both male and female incubate in the nest; however, the female shows a substantially larger brood pouch. Males can be moderately too highly territorial during the nest building and rearing. The incubation period is roughly 13-15 days, and the brood may take an additional two weeks to fledge. Nests may fail several times before producing fledglings.

Distribution: Neotropical migrant. Winters throughout Central America and Mexico. Breeding range extends from Texas to Southern Canada.


Habitat: Is known as an edge species, prefers large woodlands bordering prairie or agricultural fields. Often found near water. Usually nests above 5 m, but placement and height are highly variable. Diet: Insectivorous. May hover near foliage and use tail to drive out insects (gleaning) or collects insects while in flight (hawking).

Conservation status:
IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern Links:

Kershner, Eric L. Bollinger, Eric K. Helton, Melissa N. 2001. Nest-Site Selection and Renesting in the Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher. American Midland Naturalist. The University of Notre Dame. Vol 146. No 2. Pp 404-413.

Peterson, Roger Tory. 2010. Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Eastern and Central North American 6th Edition. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. pp 312-313, fig 470.

Image Credits:
Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Powdermill Avian Research Center Captured Gnatcatcher: Andrew Spellmeyer
Banded Gnatcatcher: Andrew Spellmeyer
Jim Mccormac: Ohio Birds and Biodiversity Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Submitted by: Andrew Spellmeyer, July, 2011.


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Generated on 2011. This website is continuously updated.
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