Do You Know What a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Sounds Like?

A surprisingly good mimic, this teensy bird has a squeaky song that samples several other species.

This audio story is brought to you by BirdNote, a partner of the National Audubon Society. BirdNote episodes air daily on public radio stations nationwide.


This is BirdNote.

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are little birds that can be hard to spot as they forage busily amid dense leaves overhead. But they are definitely worth a closer look.

The slim, 4½-inch Blue-gray Gnatcatcher is found over much of the East and Midwest and in parts of the West. It actively searches trees and bushes for small bugs to eat, often hovering and flaring a long black and white tail.

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers feast on many kinds of insects besides gnats - treehoppers, leafhoppers, aphids, spittlebugs, and weevils, not to mention spiders and caterpillars.

The biggest surprise about this tiny bird is its ability to mimic other birds’ voices. In the course of a male’s long, squeaky song, he may sing samples of jays, tanagers, nuthatches, warblers, and many other birds he has heard.

The song’s variety likely helps attract a mate.

Hidden in the dense leaves, the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher might be easy to overlook. But it has its own amazing story to tell.

For BirdNote, I’m Mary McCann.



Written by Bob Sundstrom

Producer: John Kessler

Managing Producer: Jason Saul

Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone

Assistant Producer: Mark Bramhill

Editor: Ashley Ahearn

Narrator: Michael Stein

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by B Sullivan and W Hershberger.

BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

© 2019 Tune In to   March 2019