Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Polioptila caerulea

A tiny, long-tailed bird of deciduous forests and scrublands, the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher makes itself known by its soft but emphatic "spee" calls and its constant motion. By flicking its white-edged tail from side to side, the gnatcatcher may scare up hiding insects.

Interesting Information

  • The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher is the northernmost-occurring species of gnatcatcher, and the only truly migratory one. Most members of its genus are resident in the Neotropics.

  • The soft, rambling song of the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher usually contains some mimicked songs of other bird species.


Adult Description

  • Tiny bird.

  • Long tail.

  • Bluish gray back.

  • White underside.

  • White eyering.

  • White outer tail feathers.

  • Small, thin bill.

  • No wingbars.

  • Length Range: 11 cm (4.25 in)

  • Weight: 6 g (0.2 oz)

  • Size: Very Small (3 - 5 in)

Sex Differences

Male Description

Breeding (Alternate) Plumage:

Black line meeting over the bill and extending around head above the eyes to just behind the eyes. Crown and nape washed with bluish.

Nonbreeding (Basic) Plumage:

Crown and nape medium gray. Face all medium gray.

Female Description

Face all gray, with white eyering. Overall paler gray than male.


Similar to adult female, but wings slightly browner.


Photo taken from: The Sibley Field Guide by David Allen Sibley

© 2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology


Breeds in variety of deciduous wooded habitats from shrubland to mature forest, especially near water.


Feeds near tips of branches, constantly moving through foliage. Moves tail continuously, which may flush insects.


Small insects and spiders.



Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Certhiidae
Genus: Polioptila
Species: Polioptila caerulea
    Subspecies: Polioptila caerulea amoenissima
  Polioptila caerulea caerulea
  Polioptila caerulea obscura

Similar Species

  • Cerulean Warbler with streaking on chest and sides, two wingbars, and shorter tail, lacks eyering and white outer tail feathers.

  • Kinglets with greenish, with wingbars and shorter tails.

  • Black-tailed Gnatcatcher with mostly black undersides to tail feathers, duller overall. Breeding male with black cap.

  • California Gnatcatcher with darker underside and nearly all black tail. Breeding male with black cap.

  • Rare Black-capped Gnatcatcher female very similar, with longer bill and more tapered tail. Breeding male with extensive black cap.

Bird Sound

Song soft, warbling, complex series of rambling jumbles. Call a thin, nasal "spee."

Eggs look like this

Photo taken from: ARCTOS Collaborative Collection Management Solution