Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue gray gnatcatcher feeding on tent caterpillars

Definition of naturalist: a person who specializes in natural history, especially in the study of plants and animals in their natural surroundings.

I learned something new about blue-gray gnatcatchers on our hike this morning at my rural property. Blue-gray gnatcatchers are small energetic birds — 4 1/2 inches long (tip beak to tip of tail). They’re blue-gray above, whitish below and have a white eye ring. Their tail is long and narrow, black with white on the sides, and whitish underneath. They cock their tail upward like a wren does. Their diet consists of insects and spiders.

Buffy and I were walking along the road when I heard a gnatcatcher close by, high in the trees. The first thing I saw when I looked up was a tent caterpillar web … and the gnatcatcher came to it for the caterpillars. It “buzzed” around, back and forth and it left as quickly as it came. I’ve watched them for years eating insects. This was the first time I witnessed one eating caterpillars.

Blue-gray gnatcatchers feed near tips of branches, constantly moving through the foliage. They continuously move their tail, which may flush insects. Their call’s a squeaky wheezy series of notes. The first one I heard this spring returned to our area the end of March, and they will stay until the middle of September. Their range covers from northern California, to southern great lakes region, to New Hampshire and southward. They winter along from southern California, across Gulf coast, to the Carolinas and southward.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Therese on April 24, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    Very interesting article. Vivid descriptions, Ms. Naturalist!!!!


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