Living Bird Magazine
California GnatcatcherPolioptila californica
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Polioptilidae
A tiny gray bird with a tiny range, the California Gnatcatcher flits through coastal sage scrub and desert scrub from southern California to southern Baja California, Mexico. This petite bird flicks its long, narrow black tail as it hops through the dry waist-high scrub. The male is distinguished by his black cap and the female by her gray head, thin white eyering, and brown-washed sides. Much of their California coastal scrub habitat has been developed into suburbs, placing the California subspecies on the Endangered Species List.More ID Info
Find This Bird
California Gnatcatchers have a small range within the United States, giving you a perfect excuse to head to southern California (or to Baja California, Mexico) to go look for one. Within their coastal sage scrub habitat, look for them in gently sloping areas with good cover of California sagebrush. These tiny birds tend to stay tucked in, but their meow will alert you to their presence. Look for movement within the shrub first and soon enough you'll have a California Gnatcatcher in your field of view.
- Perlita Californiana (Spanish)
- Gobemoucheron de Californie (French)
- Cool Facts
- California Gnatcatchers haven't been observed bathing in standing water, instead they clean their feathers using water collected on leaves by rain or coastal fog.
- Despite their small size, California Gnatcatchers mob potential nest predators including birds more than quadruple their size such as California Scrub-Jays, Cactus Wrens, and Greater Roadrunners.
- Male and female California Gnatcatchers incubate the eggs with just the top of their head and their tail visible above the nest.