Remember when Black-capped Gnatcatcher was a big deal, red-letter news, Birding-back-cover material? It’s still a great bird anywhere north of the Mexican border, but the past several years have seen the apparent establishment of what was for nearly 30 years a first-rate rarity here in southeast Arizona.
Nubs and I had almost given up last Saturday morning when we heard the whining chatter of a singing gnatcatcher in an oak tree overhead. As we watched, the bird–a fine black-capped male–decided that he was hungry, and came down to forage at eye level just a few feet away.
There wasn’t much doubt about his identity, of course, with that jet-black stocking cap, and he even gave us a few loud buzzing meows for good measure. And patience and good fortune–the birder’s two best friends–led us to great views of the tail formula, with the outermost rectrix considerably shorter than the next one in.
Yes, I wish I’d taken that picture on purpose, but gift horses and gnatcatchers….
With places to go and more–many, many more–birds to see, we stayed with this beauty for only about 15 minutes. During that time there was no sign of a female, and as we left we extended to these hardy little colonists the wish that she be sitting on eggs, ready to give southeast Arizona a few more Black-capped Gnatcatchers.