Another Southern Bird Here?
Shown above is a rare bird we saw on Miscou on October 28 on Wilsons Point Road; a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Polioptila caerulea. It is a small fast bird with a high pitched call note. We were hoping to see this species because it had been showing up periodically this fall on Miscou. It came in to our call and stayed long enough for us to get a few photos. It was very actively flitting around among the branches and tree tops. I hadn't seen one in over 5 years so was delighted to get reacquainted. My last sighting was in South Carolina. The last one I had seen in New Brunswick was in 1959! This present sighting made some in our group so happy they did a dance. (Some people think birders are strange people but they should see them dancing on the side of the road! Fortunately that old attitude towards birders has pretty well disappeared.)
|Blue-gray Gnatcatcher [Internet Photo]|
The photo far above is of the actual bird we saw on Miscou. It is moulting its tail feathers and shows only one feather remaining. The photo immediately above shows an adult male in breeding plumage. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are mainly blue-gray (or sometimes just gray) above and white below. They have a characteristic white eyering and their tail is long and black with white outer tail feathers. They fan their tail from side to side, probably to stir up insects on which they feed. This is a small species, only 11 cm (4.3 in) long (and much of that is tail!)
Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are often single birds but they do sometimes associate with flocks of kinglets or warblers. They are busy, feeding on mainly insects which they glean from the edges of deciduous trees. They are, however, adaptable and can be found in a variety of habitats.
The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher is the northernmost member of its family. It is the only member of the family that is truly migratory and its breeding range is expanding into the northeast. It normally breeds in the southern and central US and it winters in the very southern US, Mexico and the Caribbean Islands. It is a permanent resident in the southeastern US states and Mexico.
In late years more of these birds have been appearing in NB, indicated that they may be slowly expanding into our area. If that is true, we look forward to it because they are a welcome species to help balance out our insect population.