While still an
in most of South Dakota, the range of the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher has been
steadily expanding throughout the 20th century. Very small birds normally
found in woodlands, they can sometimes be difficult to observe as they flit
about the tree tops.
Habitat: Varies by region, preferring
deciduous forests in the East, pine forests with a deciduous understory in the
South, and shrubby habitat in the West.
Diet: Feeds almost exclusively on insects and spiders.
Behavior: Extremely active, foraging actively
among trees and shrubs in search of insects. Will take prey while
perched, hovering, or by flycatching and catching insects in mid-air.
Nesting: May and June in South Dakota. The nest
consists of a small cup of grassees, weeds, strips of bark, and other material,
lined with softer material such as plant down or feathers. The outside of the
nest is often camouflaged with mosses and lichen. The female lays 4 or 5
eggs, and both parents help to incubate them. Upon hatching, both parents
help to feed the young, although the male does most of the feeding early on,
while the female tends to the young.
Migration: Summers throughout much of the United States except
for the Pacific Northwest and the northern tier of states. Winters in the
extreme southern United States and southward.
Similar Species: Similar to the other Gnatcatchers, but these
other species (Black-tailed Gnatcatcher,
California Gnatcatcher, Black-capped
Gnatcatcher) all have normal ranges well to the south of South Dakota and have
never been seen in this state.
South Dakota "Hotspot": Most common in the extreme
southeastern part of the state, I've had very good luck finding them at both
Newton Hills State Park, and the Big Sioux Recreation Area.:
Cornell University's "All About Birds - Blue-gray Gnatcatcher"
Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or
text links below for additional, higher-resolution Blue-gray Gnatcatcher photos.