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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher -- Polioptila caerulea

RANGE: Breeds from southern Oregon, northern California, southern Idaho, central Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, western Iowa, southeastern Minnesota, Michigan, southwestern Quebec, central New York, central Vermont and southern Maine south to Baja California, to southeastern Texas, the Gulf Coast, and southern Florida, throughout Mexico to Central America. Winters from southern California, southern Nevada, western and central Arizona, central Texas, the southern portions of the Gulf States, and on the Atlantic Coast from Virginia south through Mexico to Central America.

STATUS: Common in parts of its range, but numbers fluctuate.

HABITAT: In the Southeast, it inhabits forested river bottoms and upland pine woods with an understory of oaks. In other areas, it may inhabit open scrub and woodlands, or tall trees of closed canopy along river flood plains. Throughout the West it breeds in oaks, pinyon-juniper, and less frequently in chaparral.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: An abundant supply of arthropods.

NEST: Places nest saddled on a horizontal limb 4 to 70 feet high (average 25 feet), in a conifer or deciduous tree, but usually in deciduous oaks.

FOOD: Gleans food from the tips of branches, leaf surfaces, and bark; also hawks flying insects from perches. Mostly eats arthropods, principally insects, and some spiders.

REFERENCES: Forbush and May 1955, Root 1967, 1969, Terres 1980.

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