Birds Of Southern California

California Gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica)

The tail pattern on a California Gnatcatcher is the easiest way to differentiate from a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. There are other attributes as would be expected. The California Gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica) is a small 10.8 cm (4.25 inches) long insectivorous bird which frequents dense coastal sage scrub growth. This species was recently split from the similar Black-tailed Gnatcatcher of the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts. This bird is often solitary, but joins with other birds in winter flocks. The male California Gnatcatcher is dusky gray overall, distinguished only by its black crown and thin black beak. It has a long, thin black tail with narrow white tips and edges on the underside of the tail feathers. However, the male loses its plumage colors by winter, and obtains a plumage color like the females. The female is similar to the male, but with a blue-gray instead of a black crown. In its range from coastal Southern California south through Baja California and Baja California Sur, this inconspicuous non-migratory resident is most often seen flitting hastily into undergrowth, or heard giving its call, which sounds like a kitten's mew (a rising and falling zeeeeer, zeeeeer). More at