Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Polioptila melanura, Borrego Springs, CA (5/16/13)

The Black-tailed Gnatcatcher (Polioptila melanura) are found throughout northern and central Mexico and the southwest deserts of the US. They are non-migratory and prefer arid scrublands. The Black-tailed Gnatcatchers are common in desert washes.


Black-Tailed Gnatcatchers are active small blue-gray birds with a slender bill and tail. The breeding male has a black cap. Both males and females have a tail that is mostly black, with a small amount of white at the ends of the outer retrices. (Sibley 2000)

They reach about 4.5 to 5 inches (~11.40 cm) in length, much of it taken up by a long black tail lined with white outer feathers. Their wingspan is 14 cm (5.51 in). They average about 5 g (0.18 oz) in weight. Their plumage is blue-gray, with white underparts. They are similar to the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, with the difference being the amount of black in the tail feathers. The male Black-tailed Gnatcatcher also has a black cap, which the Blue-gray lacks.

Breeding / Nesting:

It is thought that Black-tailed Gnatcatchers form monogomous pair bonds that last longer than the breeding season, but the duration of these bonds is not well known. The male defends a foraging territory. Double clutching is possible.

Black-tailed Gnatcatchers may be heavily parasitized by Cowbirds in some regions


Small insects and spiders

Song / Call:

They make harsh, scolding calls

Species Research by Sibylle Johnson

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