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Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Polioptila caerulea
Anatomy of a Bird

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.

Range Map My Photos Of This Bird
© 2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Cool Facts Taxonomic Hierarchy Illustration
  • 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.
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Certhiidae
Genus: Polioptila
Species: Polioptila caerulea
  • Polioptila caerulea amoenissima
  • Polioptila caerulea caerulea
  • Polioptila caerulea obscura
Photo taken from:
The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America by David Allen Sibley




Adult Description

  • Tiny bird.
  • Long tail.
  • Bluish gray back.
  • White underside.
  • White eyering.
  • White outer tail feathers.
  • Small, thin bill.
  • No wingbars.

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.

Immature Description

Similar to adult female, but wings slightly browner.
Song soft, warbling, complex series of rambling jumbles. Call a thin, nasal "spee."

  • Breeding Location: Forest edge, Bushes, shrubs, and thickets, Mountains, Desert, Desert, semi
  • Breeding Type: Monogamous, Solitary nester
  • Breeding Population:
  • Egg Color: White
  • Number of Eggs: 4 - 5
  • Incubation Days: 13
  • Egg Incubator: Both sexes
  • Nest Material: Fine plant fibers with lining of bark pieces and finer materials.
  • Condition at Hatching: Helpless.
Body Head Flight
  • Length Range: 11 cm (4.25 in)
  • Weight: 6 g (0.2 oz)
  • Size: Very Small (3 - 5 in)
  • Color Primary: White, Gray
  • Underparts: White washed with gray.
  • Upperparts: Blue-gray
  • Back Pattern: Solid
  • Belly Pattern: Solid
  • Breast Pattern: Solid
  • Bill Shape: All-purpose
  • Eye Color: Brown.
  • Head Pattern: Eyering
  • Crown Color: Blue-gray
  • Forehead Color: Blue-gray
  • Nape Color: Blue-gray
  • Throat Color: White washed with gray.
  • Cere color: No Data
  • Flight Pattern: Weak fluttering flight with shallow wing beats.
  • Wingspan Range: 15-17 cm (5.75-6.5 in)
  • Wing Shape: Rounded-Wings
  • Tail Shape: Fan-shaped Tail
  • Tail Pattern: Solid
  • Upper Tail: Black with white outer feathers.
  • Under Tail: Gray
  • Leg Color: Black


Food Habitat
Feeds near tips of branches, constantly moving through foliage. Moves tail continuously, which may flush insects. Small insects and spiders. Breeds in variety of deciduous wooded habitats from shrubland to mature forest, especially near water.
Other Names Similar Species Conservation Status
  • Gobemoucherons Gris-bleu (French)
  • Perlita Común, Perlita Grisilla (Spanish)
  • 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.
Expanded breeding range northward over last century. Common, with no significant population increases or decreases.
Video Sources Used To Construct This Page:


  • Ellison, Walter G. 1992. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea). In The Birds of North America, No. 23 (A. Poole, P. Stettenheim, and F. Gill, Eds.). Philadelphia: The Academy of Natural Sciences; Washington, DC: The American Ornithologists' Union.
All photos © 2008 Rick Swartzentrover - Free for non-profit use.
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