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Black-tailed Gnatcatcher Polioptila melanura


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Black-tailed Gnatcatcher
credit: Alan Vernon/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Sylviidae, Old World Warblers and Gnatcatchers view all from this family

Description ADULT MALE When breeding, has blue-gray upperparts, except for blackish wings with contrasting white tertial edges. Tail, from above, is mainly black, but with white tips to outer feathers; from below, tail is mostly black, except for white tips. Note black cap and white eyering. Underparts are pale gray. Nonbreeding male has gray cap. ADULT FEMALE Similar to nonbreeding male. JUVENILE Similar to adult female.

Dimensions Length: 4 1/2 -5" (11-13 cm)

Habitat Locally common resident of desert habitats.

Observation Tips Fairly easy to find in suitable habitats.

Range Texas, Southwest, California

Voice Calls include tch'tch'tch and tchee-tchee notes; song comprises similar phrases.

Discussion Desert counterpart of Blue-gray and California Gnatcatchers. Separated from former by smaller size and virtual absence of white (except for tips to outer feathers) in otherwise black tail when seen from above; tail is mostly black (not white) from below, but with broader white tips to feathers than in California. Vocal differences can be detected. Separated from California by geographical range, habitat preference, voice, and subtle plumage differences. Sexes are dissimilar.