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    Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

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    Overview

    Several species of gnatcatchers are found throughout the warmer parts of the Americas. All of them build exquisite nests, which are exceedingly difficult to find unless the adults are feeding their young; the parents are quite noisy and conspicuous and seem to ignore intruders. These birds are extremely active, constantly flitting about through the treetops.

    Diet

    The diet of the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea) consists mostly of insects. They feed on a wide variety of small insects, including leafhoppers, treehoppers, plant bugs, leaf beetles, caterpillars, flies, and small wasps. They occasionally eat spiders. These birds consume most of their food while perched and also hovers to pick items from surface. Large insects are beaten against a branch before being eaten.

    Nesting Behaviour

    Male arrives first in breeding areas and sings to defend territory and attract a mate. Nest (built by both sexes) is a compact open cup of grass, weeds, plant fibers, strips of bark, lined with plant down, animal hair, and feathers. The outside of the nest is coated with spider webs and decorated with pieces of lichen, making nest well camouflaged. Both parents feed nestlings.

    Length: 4.5 – 5 inches

    Habitat: Open, moist woodlands and brushy streamside thickets. Breeding habitat varies with region.

    Distribution: Breeds from North California, Colorado, central Minnesota, S. Ontario, and New Hampshire south to the Bahamas, the Gulf Coast, and Guatemala. Winters north to the Carolinas, the Gulf Coast, and S. California.

    Conservation Status

    IUCN Red List: Least Concern (LC)

    Video Credits: Larry Bond
    Image Credits: Shenandoah National Park

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