Friday, May 09, 2008

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Earlier this season at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest, the very thin, nasal zeewv zeef zeff of the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea) was ubiquitous. Now, the robust songs of the numerous other songbird species mask the thn call of the gnatcatcher. However, if you look closely, you can still spot the very small bird (L=4.5").

The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher spends most of its time in the middle- to upper-level of the forest searching for small insects. The bird is constantly active and the tail is always flicking side to side or up and down. The conspicuous black and white tail and the pale, blue-gray back are distinguishing characteristics. They are in our area year-round. Surprisingly, the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher is a frequent host to the parasitic Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater), which lays an egg in the gnatcatcher's nest that is 50% larger than the gnatcatcher's egg.

Images by Mark Musselman

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