Friday, July 15, 2011

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

On 11 July 2011, John H. and I banded a female Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (first two photographs). Despite gnatcatchers' being common in most of the eastern and southwestern United States, this individual was a first for our Dundas banding site. Previously in Northfield I banded the male in this post's last photo.

Gnatcatchers
are monogamous. The males assist in most aspects of breeding, including the building of intricate lichen and spider-web supported nests, incubation, and the care of the young. Populations have grown over the past 25 years, increasing towards the north (Ellison 1992). They are an early migrant, their buzzy calls often indicating their presence, but become difficult of see once trees have leafed.

"Just what is a gnatcatcher?" asked John.

"Good question," I replied. "Early ornithologists thought they were Old World Flycatchers (Muscicapidae) or even in the mockingbird family (Mimidae). Then they were given their own family, the Sylviidae. In 1904, they were moved to the family Polioptilidae. By 1934 they moved into the chickadee family, Paridae. Later still they were again classified as Old World Warblers (a redefined Muscicapidae). Recent DNA studies indicate that gnatcatchers are most closely related to wrens (Troglodytidae). DNA folks argue whether gnatcatchers might be creepers (Certhiidae) or actual wrens. Clearly more research is needed. Today the American Ornithologists' Union calls them Polioptilidae; The Birds of North America (A publication of the AOU), Sylviidae; and The Handbook of Birds of the World labels them Polioptilidae."

John raised his eye-brow at me and passed me another cup of coffee.

1 comment:

  1. Early summer I had a blue-gray gnatcher nest in my forsythia bushes along my patio. It was close to where I sat everyday but the birds didnt seem to mind.
    Now one has stayed around but gets very close every time i am on the patio, or sometimes will even look in my kitchen window in the morning.

    Are these birds friendly ? It comes within a foot of where i sit or stand when i am outside. If gardening it sits on the fence above me.

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