Birds of Seabrook Island

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  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
 
 

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  Order Passeriformes
   Suborder Passeres - Oscines (Song Birds)
      Parvorder Passerida (Superfamily Sylvioidea)
         Family Polyoptilidae - Gnatcatchers, Gnatwrens

  Passerines are generally smaller than non-passerines. They have a perching foot with three toes directed forward and the one backward with locking tendons to facilitate perching when their tendons are flexed. All passerines scratch by bringing the foot over the wing. Incubation ranges from 11 -21 days. Young hatch blind with little or no down and spend 10-15 days or so in the nest - development is rapid and parents provide care beyond fledging.
Oscines are passerines with complex syringeal musculature used to produce varied vocalizations. 
Sylvioidea includes nuthatches, creepers, wrens, tits, kinglets, and Old World Warblers.
Gnatcatchers are small New World insectivorous birds, moving nervously about in foliage, often cocking their tails.
     
     
  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Polioptila caerulea
 

   Cornell     USGS     Wiki     EoL

        YEAR ROUND (few in winter) - Common, breeds / Common
           HARDWOODS, EDGES
MORE PICTURES
 

   The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher looks like a miniature Mockingbird. It has a long tail with white outer tail feathers (but lacks white in the wings). It is darker on the back and upper wing areas and lighter beneath. There is a white eye ring. The legs are also relatively long. The bill is dark and pointed. It is in constant motion and utters thin, wheezy notes and high chips as it feeds (its chatter often announces its presence before you see it). They can be seen flycatching to gather their food.

   
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.
Magnolia Plantation.Photo by Ed Konrad
     
  RANGE: This gnatcatcher has a broad range from New Hampshire west around the lower Great Lakes to the Texas panhandle, then north through central Colorado to Wyoming and west to the Pacific coast in central California. Populations extend south through the Rockies to central Mexico and from the eastern coast of Mexico around the Gulf Coast and Florida north to New Hampshire.
BREEDING: Monogamous. One (2 in south) brood. Both birds help build a compact nest on a horizontal limb or fork using plant down and insect and spider silk. It may be covered with bits of lichen and lined with fine material. The female lays 4-5 (3-6) eggs which both parents incubate for 13 (11-15) days. Young are altricial and leave the nest after 10-15 days. The female broods while the male brings food. Both parents help in their care.
DIET: They feed on insects and other invertebrates, including spiders. They search for insects among the outer twigs of deciduous trees and on the trunks of pines. They may hover over branches and pick up food - they also flycatch.
  VOICE: Blue-gray Gnatcatchers song is a series of aspirated, wheezy notes in a steady series, interspersed with high chips "zwee  zwee  zwee."
  NOTES:
   Checklists -
      Seabrook (breeds). Kiawah - common spring through fall (breeds), uncommon winter. Edisto - summer.
      Coastal - common summer resident, uncommon winter visitor. Hilton Head - common permanent resident (placed with thrushes in the list).          Cape Romain - common/common (breeds)/uncommon/uncommon.
         Huntington Beach
- common April; abundant Jay - June; common July -September; uncommon October; rare November - March.
      Caw Caw - common/common (breeds)/common/uncommon. ACE - abundant/abundant (breeds)/common/rare.
   Kiawah Island banding - Capn' Sam's spit - 2 Sep-Oct 2011; 4 Sep 2012.
   CBC: ACE 6, 4, 3, 7, 8, 15, 15; Charleston 5, 1, 2, 3, 3, 3, 2;
            Hilton Head 1, 1, 9, 43, 6, 1, 12; Sun City/Okatie 8, 28, 4, 7, 2, 1, 3;
            McClellanville 22, 1, 9, 1, nc, 6, 7; Winyah Bay x, x, 8, 7, 7, 8, 4; Litchfield/Pawley's 13, 7, 20, 8, 3, 18, 5.
   SCBBA: Breeds in all counties.
   P&G: Resident, commin summer, uncommon winter. Maximum: 15, Awendaw/Cape Romain area; 30; Savannah River NWR,  9 December 1979. Egg dates: 2 April - 26 June.
   Avendex: 2 reports (including maximum, above).
   Potter: Common summer resident of bottomland hardwoods, arriving mid-March and departing in early October, but a few spend the winter in the lower coastal plain.
    ●  Gnatcatchers are common on Seabrook, often foraging along edges bordering more open areas - Hidden Oaks, Palmetto Lake, Capn' Sam's Creek edge, in the myrtles leading to the beach, etc. Listen for their wheezy notes. I've also seen them foraging with small groups of chickadees so keep your eyes open.
       
    Banner - Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Francis Beidler Forest, Four Holes Swamp.
       
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