Polioptila californica californica

Polioptila californica californica

coastal California gnatcatcher
FWS Focus

Overview

The coastal California gnatcatcher is a small blue-gray songbird which measures only 4.5 inches (11 cm) and weighs 0.2 ounces (6 grams). It has dark blue-gray feathers on its back and grayish-white feathers on its underside. The wings have a brownish wash to them. Its long tail is mostly black with white outer tail feathers. They have a thin, small bill. The males have a black cap during the summer which is absent during the winter. Both males and females have a white ring around their eyes. It belongs to the old-world warbler and gnatcatcher Sylviidae family.
Characteristics
Overview

The coastal California gnatcatcher is a small, nonmigratory bird. The northernmost of several subspecies, the coastal California gnatcatcher is restricted to coastal Southern California and Baja California, Mexico, from southern Ventura and southwestern San Bernardino counties in the north, to about 30 degrees north latitude in Baja California.

The coastal California gnatcatcher was listed as threatened in 1993 because of historical and ongoing habitat loss and predation, including brood parasitism by brown-headed cowbirds. Coastal sage scrub used to grow in many of the areas that are now developed for urban, residential and agricultural use. Since listing, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife have worked with cities, counties and other jurisdictions to develop large-scale habitat conservation plans. These plans authorize development in certain areas in exchange for protection and management of natural areas. Through these collaborative efforts, approximately 350,000 acres of coastal sage scrub vegetation have been preserved within habitat conservation plan areas to benefit the coastal California gnatcatcher.

Scientific Name

Polioptila californica californica
Common Name
coastal California gnatcatcher
FWS Category
Birds
Kingdom

Location in Taxonomic Tree

Identification Numbers

TSN:

Characteristics

Characteristic category

Physical Characteristics

Characteristics
Size & Shape

The coastal California gnatcatcher is a songbird in the family Polioptilidae that is about 4.5 inches (11 cm).

Color & Pattern

The coastal California gnatcatcher has dark blue-gray feathers on its back, grayish-white feathers on its underside and white rings around its eyes. It has a long, mostly black tail, and a thin, small bill. Adult males have a black cap during the breeding season.

Weight

The coastal California gnatcatcher is a small songbird that weighs 0.2 ounces (6 grams).

Characteristic category

Lifecycle

Characteristics
Reproduction

Breeding season extends from late February through early August. During this time, pairs strongly defend territories against other gnatcatchers and predators. Nesting typically occurs from mid-March through mid-May, with nests constructed in coastal sage scrub about three feet above the ground.

Characteristic category

Food

Characteristics
Food

Coastal California gnatcatchers eat insects and spiders.

Characteristic category

Habitat

Characteristics
Habitat

It typically occurs in, or near, sage scrub plant communities. In Southern California, plants that typify coastal sage scrub include California sagebrush sagebrush
The western United States’ sagebrush country encompasses over 175 million acres of public and private lands. The sagebrush landscape provides many benefits to our rural economies and communities, and it serves as crucial habitat for a diversity of wildlife, including the iconic greater sage-grouse…

Learn more about sagebrush
, California buckwheat and several other sage species.

Desert

Arid land with usually sparse vegetation.

Coastal

The land near a shore.

Geography

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Timeline

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