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Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Polioptila caerulea


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Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
credit: Alan Vernon/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Sylviidae, Old World Warblers and Gnatcatchers view all from this family

Description ADULT MALE BREEDING Has blue-gray upperparts, except for the blackish wings that have contrasting white tertial edges. Tail, from above, is mainly black, but with contrasting and striking white outer feathers; from below, tail is mostly white. Note the white eyering and black on forehead extending to above eye. Underparts are pale gray. ADULT MALE NONBREEDING Similar, but it has a gray, not black, forehead. ADULT FEMALE Similar to nonbreeding male. JUVENILE Similar to adult female, but sometimes has a subtle brownish wash on back.

Dimensions Length: 4 1/2 -5" (11-13 cm)

Habitat Widespread and common summer visitor (present mainly Apr-Aug) to deciduous wooded habitats. Present year-round in southeastern U.S. and winters from there to Central America.

Observation Tips Easy to see in most suitable habitats.

Range Florida, Great Lakes, Southeast, New England, Rocky Mountains, Southwest, Plains, California, Texas, Eastern Canada, Northwest, Mid-Atlantic

Voice Song consists of a series of thin notes, and often contains some mimicry of other songsters in the vicinity; call is a soft, grating zwe'oe.

Discussion Distinctive little songbird and eastern North America's only gnatcatcher. It looks rather warblerlike overall, with its thin bill and slim body. But note the very long tail, which is often cocked upright or flicked from side-to-side. Forages actively in foliage for insects, often near the outermost branches of shrubs and trees, and sometimes hovers to glean prey from a leaf. Often seen in pairs. Sexes are dissimilar.