If you are lucky enough to spot a blue-gray gnatcatcher, it might seem next to impossible to identify before it quickly vanishes. Actually, if you know what to look for, is easier to recognize than you might think.
The blue-gray gnatcatcher is one of the smallest (4 1/2″ long) that you are likely to see in your backyard during the summer. It is quite slender, bluish gray on top, and whitish below. A thin, white ring encircles the bird’s eyes. Its tail appears quite long for a bird this small. The underside of the tail is mostly white. The topside, however, is black and highlighted by white outer tail feathers.
The bird’s behavior will also help you make a positive identification. This bird acts very nervous as it constantly moves from spot to spot looking insects and spiders. Often it will cock its tail as it forages. While most its food is captured as it flits from branch to branch, it will also make short flights and capture food in midair. Such attacks are often launched high in the treetops.
Although the bird is quite vocal, its high-pitched call, which sounds something like spee, is often beyond the hearing range of many of us.
From spring to fall, the blue-gray gnatcatcher can be seen in yards with shrubs and mature trees throughout the entire state except the higher elevations in the mountains. Although the vast majority of the birds winter in Mexico and Central America, some are uncommonly seen in during this cold, harsh season along the Georgia coast and in the Coastal Plain. Rarely are the birds spotted during the winter elsewhere in the state.
Be on the lookout for this tiny bird in your backyard. If you don’t see one soon, you will have to wait until next spring for another chance to make the acquaintance with a bird that may be more common in your neck of the woods than you think.