BIRD ALERT: Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

BIRD ALERT: Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Photo taken by Mike Perrin of a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (male) at Shaw Farm Trail, Fairhaven, MA.

As spring migration is heating up, one of the exciting songbirds you may be seeing is the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Gnatcatchers breed in Wareham during the summer and migrate south to Florida and Central America in the winter. As their name suggests, these tiny and energetic birds have grayish-blue backs and wings, white underparts, and a long and slender black tail with white outer tail feathers. Both sexes have a crisp white eye ring, but the males show an angry black eyebrow that gives them an endearingly cute yet hostile appearance. This angry eyebrow suits their personality well, as the males are incredibly territorial and frequently attack and harass birds, sometimes much larger than themselves, that wander into their territory. These birds make nasally, squeaky, high-pitched songs and calls. To me, they sound like squeaky jays or chickadees. Gnatcatchers eat insects and often eat spiders, and surprisingly, gnats do not make up a significant chunk of their diet. Breeding data from the early twentieth century shows that the gnatcatchers’ breeding range is expanding farther north due to climate change.

Photo taken by Mariel Wamsley of a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (male) eating from spider web.


To catch a glimpse of one of these birds, visit areas with their preferred habitats of mixed, deciduous forests with streams and edges. Places to see these species around Wareham include Marks Cove Natural Area, Agawam River Trail, and Douglas S. Westgate Conservation Area. 

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