California Gnatcatcher

Polioptila californica




Gnatcatchers and Gnatwrens (Polioptillidae)

Code 4


Code 6



Egg Color:

Pale blue with small red brown spots

Number of Eggs:

4 - 5

Incubation Days:


Egg Incubator:

Both sexes

Nest Location:

In low shrub, 1 - 3 feet above ground

Nest Material:

Grass, bark, plant fibers, bound with spider silk





California Gnatcatcher: Medium-sized gnatcatcher with a black cap, dark blue-gray upperparts, black tail, and paler gray, buff-washed underparts. Bill is short, slender, and black. Tail is black with white edges, with undertail appearing all-black when closed. Female is paler and lacks black cap. Winter male resembles female but has dark eyebrow.

Range and Habitat

California Gnatcatcher: This species has a limited range, and is a local resident of coastal southern California and the Baja Peninsula. Apparent coastal sage shrub/scrub, chaparral obligate in the United States. Population declines due to habitat destruction have prompted its listing as a federally threatened species.

Breeding and Nesting

California Gnatcatcher: Four to five pale blue eggs with small red brown spots are laid in a cup nest built by both parents in low shrubby vegetation; nest comprised of grass, bark, and plant fibers bound with spider and insect silk, lined with leaves and down feathers. Both sexes incubate eggs for about 14 days.

Foraging and Feeding

California Gnatcatcher: Gleans insects from foliage and branches. Occasionally will hover. Diet sometimes includes spiders and seeds.


California Gnatcatcher: Song a series of "jzer" or "zew" notes. Call a kittenlike rising and falling "zeeer."

Similar Species

California Gnatcatcher: Blue-gray Gnatcatcher distinctly blue toned, with white eye ring, pale bill, lacks black cap, undertail nearly all white. Black-tailed Gnatcatcher has more white on underside of tail. Black-capped Gnatcatcher undertail almost entirely white. All species have different vocalizations and are overall lighter in color than the California Gnatcatcher.


Belly, undertail coverts, chest, flanks, and foreneck.

Back, rump, hindneck, wings, and crown.
The area on top of the head of the bird.
Also called the supercilicum or superciliary it is the arch of feathers over each eye.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X