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Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

Polioptila caerulea

The Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher is the northernmost-occurring species of gnatcatcher, and the only one that migrates. These are the most wide-spread of all North American gnatcatchers. They breed over much of eastern USA north to the Great Lakes and New England, and in the southwestern USA and California. Winters are spent in the southern parts of the USA (coast-to-coast), Baja California, mainland Mexico and northern Central America. Some of these birds will stay year-round on this winter range.

Nest failure is common in these birds. They may attempt six or seven nests in a season, usually reusing old nest material as an economical means of constructing their subsequent nest. Yet despite this record, usually two broods are raised successfully per season.

When I find these birds sharing territory with Black-Tailed Gnatcatchers, such as Big Bend Texas and the desert regions of California and Arizona, I find it helpful to see the underside of the tail. The Blue-Gray bird has mostly white under the tail, while the underside of the Black-Tailed is mostly black with some white spotting near the tip. Being in the company of these birds has rich rewards in entertainment value. As many other lovers of birds who have met members of this clan may tell you, they are quick to remind us with their scolding calls, that we are intruders in their world.

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