The fearless little gnatcatcher

The blue-gray gnatcatcher.

Courtesy photo


by Sue Hirshman
with Kent Nelson


 Miracles come in
 Small Packages
 —Anonymous

It was a good summer for the small dynamo Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. I had three different sightings and I believe that is the most that I have ever seen this bird at three different locations.
My friend and I spotted an active adult coming and going to a tree. When we stopped and got out of the car to investigate we found the adult feeding a juvenile, of which I got a picture. The juvenile was funny looking with his long toothpick legs and short tail which had not developed yet.
Gnatcatchers are among the tiniest of songbirds. They are about four and a half inches long, but nearly half that length is provided by their long tail. They weigh a fraction of an ounce, or less than a large hummingbird.
There are four gnatcatchers listed in the United States, but in Ouray County we only see one — the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, which is easy to identify with the plain blue-gray color above, a distinct eye ring and the long tail with white outer tail feathers which are notable when the tail is spread.
Even though we didn’t find the compact cup-shaped nest which is usually placed on a horizontal limb of a Gambel Oak or Pinyon-Juniper decorated with lichens we both felt lucky to see the adult and young. The lichens help to camouflage the outside of the nest.
We saw the gnatcatcher in another area flitting about actively up and down on limbs of trees with several species of warblers and chickadees. As the name gnatcatcher implies, it is insectivorous in its feeding habits, making it beneficial to man.
Bird Banding on Sept. 9 also found this bird in the net, where observers got to...

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