Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers

Last year was the first time I'd noticed the tiny Blue-gray Gnatcatchers in our yard. They seemed to pass through with the warblers in the spring.

This year they returned, but the exciting part? They've stayed in the yard all summer!

Here in the Twin Cities, we're at the northern range of their breeding range, but their range has been pushing northward over the years. In fact, according to Cornell Lab, this is the only true migratory gnatcatcher and is the northernmost-occurring of all.

I'm pretty sure the one below is a juvenile, based on the brownish colored flight feathers and the remnants of some downy-type feathers:

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are cool little birds, in fact they're quickly becoming one of my favorite species. I've had the extreme fortune of watching one of them raised at WRC by our Avian Nursery Coordinator Jessika Madison-Kennedy. Here's a neat video of it at the fledgling stage, narrated by Jessika.

I learned through her that BG Gnatcatchers build a nest similar to a hummingbird's, way out on the end of a branch; a small cup constructed of lichens, bark, spider and caterpillar silk, and lined with grass and down.

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers have white tail coverts, just like Dark-eyed Juncos. Scientists believe that they flash their tail while gleaning bugs to flush and attract more insects. They glean insects from foliage just like warblers do and are almost always in constant motion. I never would've nabbed these shots if not for my fun new lens.


  1. I like all three frames, but #1 is my fave because of the pose and I like the leaves.

  2. Thanks, Maria! They are so fun to watch, was hoping some of that personality would come out in the photos...

  3. They are such beautoful little birds and such a challenge to photograph, well done!

  4. I love these little guys! Luck you to have them in your yard!!