This tiny bird has a bluish-gray back and wings and lighter front. The long tail is mostly black with white edges. The beak is pointed and straight. The most conspicuous field mark is a noticeable white eye-ring. Males have a black “V” on their foreheads, but only during breeding season.
The Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher forages actively on branches, leaves, and bark. In our region its diet consists not of gnats, but of moth larvae, other insects, and spiders, along with occasional invertebrates such as worms. Males and females cooperate to build a tiny nest in a tree, using spider thread and lichens. They prefer wooded habitat and edges, and often are found in moist areas. Despite their small size, they aggressively protect their territories.
What brings it to the SBG?
Food, cover, perhaps nesting sites. This bird relies heavily on insects, which the SBG habitat provides in abundance. Pennsylvania is entirely within the bird’s breeding range, and the habitat has its favored deciduous trees, so it is possible that the Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher may nest within the SBG habitat. To date observations have only occurred during migration seasons.
When can I see it?
Spring, summer, fall. In spring and fall it is migrating, and in summer probably nesting. Wintering populations migrate to Mexico and Cuba, and there are also year-round residents on the US west coast, the southern tip of Florida, and Honduras.