The gnatcatcher family is made up of 15 to 20 species that live in North and South America. Most of the gnatcatchers are tropical or subtropical and don't migrate, but the Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher in the United State migrates south in the winter. Gnatcatchers are tiny, slender birds with long, pointy beaks. They are usually a blue-gray or brown above and lighter coloring on their undersides. They love to eat small insects and have short calls/songs.
Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher sitting in its nest in Schoolhouse Ridge North.
Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher at Schoolhouse Ridge North.
© Bill Telfair

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerula)

• The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher is nicknamed “Little Mockingbird” because of its coloring, long tail, and use of snippets of other birds’ songs.
• The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher is the only truly migratory gnatcatcher. Most other gnatcatchers stay in Central and South America.
• Nests of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are held together and attached to branches with spider webbing and decorated with lichen. They build multiple nests during the summer to counteract predation. In the mid-Atlantic, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers tend to stay in forests or along streams and rivers.
• Their name is misleading, as gnats are not a large portion of the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher’s diet. They eat small insects and spiders. They may flick their long tails to flush out prey.

Identification Information

• Size: Sparrow sized or smaller (Extra Small)
• Color: Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are pale blue-gray with a grayish-white belly. Its tail is black on top with white edges and mostly white underneath. Its eyes have a white eyering and in the summer males often have a black “V” starting at the bill and extending above the eyes.
All of the above information is an abbreviated version of information gathered from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Please visit their website for more in-depth bird information.

Last updated: September 16, 2019

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