This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the blue-gray gnatcatcher.
These energetic little songbirds, weighing in at less than an ounce, are hard to catch sitting still. A sign of spring, they arrive from their winter homes in western Mexico and Central America as soon as insects are active. In our area, they are found hopping within oak stands or in pinon-juniper shrublands, usually near water.
As they forage for insects on leaves, they flick their long tails to scare them up and will also dart out to catch them on the wing. Despite their name, gnats do not provide a significant part of their diet. However, they are no friend to spiders, eating them, raiding their webs for insects and taking their webs for nest building.
A breeding male has blue-gray upper parts, a long tail black on top and edged with white, a thin straight bill and a black V-shaped forehead line extending above the eyes. The female appears similar but is a paler blue with brownish cast. Both sexes show a bright white eye ring.
Fortunately for birdwatchers, the constant chatter of blue-gray gnatcatchers which is described as twangy, whiny and nasal, gives them away when they are hidden deep in the brush and helps to locate them. In song, this bird can mimic in a squeaky voice other birds it has heard including jays, tanagers, nuthatches and warblers. They are usually seen alone or in pairs.
For information on bird-watching events, visit www.weminucheaudubon.org and www.facebook.com/weminucheaudubon/.