Emily Willoughby

Paleoart and bird illustration

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher April 2014

Camera: Canon EOS 60D
Lens: Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM
Location: Somerset, NJ

The blue-gray gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea) is a very small passerine that breeds in deciduous forests and thickets all throughout the US. While a fairly common bird, they are tiny and very erratic in their foraging behavior, and this is the first time I've managed to photograph one this closely. This little fellow was bopping around, feeding and singing on a brisk April morning - a new summer arrival this spring migration. Males are differentiated from females by the quality of the blue sheen as well as the prominence of the black "unibrow".

While superficially similar to flycatchers, gnatcatchers are actually more closely related to wrens, and are part of the superfamily that includes nuthatches and treecreepers.