Blue-gray gnatcatcher

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Blue-gray gnatcatcher
Blue-gray gnatcatcher in PP (72317).jpg
Call recorded in Minnesota
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Polioptilidae
Genus: Polioptila
P. caerulea
Binomial name
Polioptila caerulea
(Linnaeus, 1766)
Polioptila caerulea map.svg

Motacilla caerulea Linnaeus, 1766

The blue-gray gnatcatcher or blue-grey gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea) is a very small songbird native to North America.


It is 10–13 cm (3.9–5.1 in) in length, 6.3 in (16 cm) in wingspan,[2] and weighing only 5–7 g (0.18–0.25 oz).[3][4] Adult males are blue-gray on the upperparts with white underparts, slender dark bill, and a long black tail edged in white. Females are less blue, while juveniles are greenish-gray. Both sexes have a white eye ring.

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The blue-gray gnatcatcher's breeding habitat includes open deciduous woods and shrublands in southern Ontario, the eastern and southwestern United States, and Mexico. Though gnatcatcher species are common and increasing in number while expanding to the northeast,[5][full citation needed] it is the only one to breed in Eastern North America. They migrate to the southern United States, Mexico, northern Central America (Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras), Cuba, the Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the Cayman Islands.

Diet and behaviour[edit]

They forage actively in trees or shrubs, mainly eating insects, insect eggs and spiders. They may hover over foliage while snatching prey (gleaning), or fly to catch insects in flight (hawking). The tail is often held upright while defending territory or searching for food.


The songs (and calls) are often heard on breeding grounds, (usually away from nest) and occasionally heard other times of the year. Calls: "zkreee, zkreee, zkreee", Songs: "szpree zpree spreeeeey spree spre sprzrreeeee"


Both parents build a cone-like nest on a horizontal tree branch, and share feeding the young. The incubation period is 13 days for both sexes, and two broods may be raised in a season.

Blue-gray gnatcatcher nest made of lichens, hair, and spiderwebs
A juvenile blue-gray gnatcatcher in San Bruno
A juvenile blue-gray gnatcatcher in San Bruno


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2016). "Polioptila caerulea". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T22711581A94302237. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22711581A94302237.en. Retrieved 13 November 2021.
  2. ^ "Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology". Retrieved 2020-09-28.
  3. ^ "Blue-gray Gnatcatcher". All About Birds. Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
  4. ^ "Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Polioptila caerulea". Archived from the original on 2012-04-28.
  5. ^ Greenberg, Russell (2001). Birds of North America. Sean Moore.

External links[edit]