The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher is the only gnatcatcher species in most of the United States. The Black-tailed Gnatcatcher of the Southwest and California Gnatcatcher of Southern California both are overall darker, with much less white in the tail, than Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. In summer males of both Black-tailed and California have entirely black crowns. Gray Vireos of the arid West are very active like gnatcatchers, (and unlike typical vireos), but they are larger, thicker birds with fairly thick, gray bills compared to the gnatcatcher’s thin, black bill. Other vireos, such as Plumbeous Vireo, are also bulkier than gnatcatchers, and typically forage slowly and methodically rather than the gnatcatcher’s quick, flitting movements. Kinglets have wingbars, shorter tails, and are a greenish-gray compared to the Blue-gray Gnatcatchers’ bluish-gray shade. Golden-crowned Kinglets have a golden yellow patch of feathers on the crown of their heads and Ruby-crowned Kinglets have an often concealed red patch on their crowns. crowns.
Blue-gray Gnatcatchers from the Rocky Mountains and westward are generally drabber than gnatcatchers of the East. Western females tend to have a brownish cast to their upperparts and summer males have a shorter and wider black forehead “V.” They also show black at the base of the underside of the tail, unlike the eastern birds’ entirely white underside to the closed tail. The calls and particularly the songs of the two forms differ as well.
Find This Bird
Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are widespread but not abundant. The nasal, wheezy, rambling song and insistent, squeaky calls are great first clues to finding them, particularly as these tiny birds can get lost in the generally taller habitats used in the eastern part of their range. It’s a bit easier to find gnatcatchers in the West because they tend to occur in shorter, more open habitat. During fall migration, eastern Blue-gray Gnatcatchers can accumulate on the Gulf Coast, particularly the Texas coast, in huge numbers.