Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Polioptila caerulea
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A small (4 ½ inches) songbird, the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher is most easily identified by its blue-gray body, pale breast, and dark tail with white edges. Males in breeding plumage possess faint black eye-stripes which separates them visually from females, which are less adorned. In winter, male and female Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are similar to one another. The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher breeds across much of the United States, southern Canada, Mexico, and northern portions of Central America. In winter, northerly-breeding populations migrate south, spending the winter anywhere from coastal California and the coastal southeastern U.S. south to Central America and the West Indies. Some southerly-breeding populations, particularly those in the tropics, are non-migratory. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers breed in a number of semi-open woodland habitats, particularly in habitats with deciduous trees and often in locations near water. In winter, this species utilizes a variety of tropical and subtropical shrub habitats. As this species’ name suggests, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers primarily eat small insects. In appropriate habitat, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers may be observed flitting through the undergrowth or the lower canopy while searching for insects on leaves or in crevices in bark. Birdwatchers may also listen for this species’ “squeaky” song or high buzzing call, which alert listeners of its presence. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are primarily active during the day.

DC Information

Common summer resident, April to mid-September. Nests from late April to early June in deciduous forests and orchards. Sexes are similar.

Specimen Information

This is the record for the female on the left.
Date:  9/1/1890
Collected By:  John R Massie/CW Richmond
Locality:  Washington, DC
Sex:  Female
Catalog ID:  176638
There is no record available for the male on the top right.
The bird at the bottom is a juvenile.
Date:  6/1/1915
Collected By:  Mr & Mrs LD Miner
Locality:  Near Washington, DC
Sex:  Juvenile
Catalog ID:  237077

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Polioptila caerulea

Sound from xeno-canto. XC17017 Polioptila caerulea (Blue-grey Gnatcatcher)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC31007 Polioptila caerulea (Blue-grey Gnatcatcher)