A California Gnatcatcher is a fun bird to see while bird watching. Below are some tips to help you identify California Gnatcatchers. We have also put together a list of fun California Gnatcatcher t-shirts, California Gnatcatcher bird patches, birdhouses, bird feeders, binoculars, stickers, and other fun bird-watching items.
About California Gnatcatchers
These small birds have a small habitat range from California to Baja California. They frequent coastal sage scrub and low shrubby areas. Development and urbanization have limited their habitat range and are regarded as endangered species. There are non-migratory birds and permanently thrive around California. Some of their distinctive features include:
Description and Identification
California Gnatcatchers are small, slender birds about 4.3 inches long. They have long tails,
small bills, and short wings that span up to 5.5 inches. Adult males have dusky gray bodies
with a black crown and a thin, black bill. They have long and thin black tails with narrow
white tips and edges. Adult females display a similar coloring but with the addition of thin
white rings encircling the eye and a brownish wash on the sides, wings, and the undertail.
Breeding males lose their plumages and obtain a color similar to that of females by the
the onset of winter.
California Gnatcatcher Color Pattern
They are primarily dark gray with pale gray underparts. Their tails are black and have tiny white edges. The males usually have a black cap while the females have distinctive white eye-ring. The bill, legs, and feet are black.
California Gnatcatcher Size
They are small birds with long tails and small slender bills. They are larger than a bushtit but dwarfed by a wrentit.
The relative size of both sexes:
- Length range: 4.3 in (11 cm)
- Weight: 0.2-0.3 oz (5-7 g)
- Wingspan range: 5.5 in (14 cm)
California Gnatcatcher Behavior
Forage by actively flitting around picking insects from foliage. They are mainly found in shrubs and low-lying trees where they habitually hold their tail up when perching. California Gnatcatchers rarely catch insects on the wing. Pairs remain intact for the rest of the year where they build permanent territories.
California Gnatcatcher Food
These birds are insectivores. They find their prey by picking insects from foliage or by
hovering above shrubs to grab prey. Their diet includes insects like leafhoppers, beetles,
caterpillars, true bugs, scale insects, wasps, ants, flies, moths, small grasshoppers, and
many others. They may also consume anthropods like spiders. When there are fewer insects
during the winter months, these birds may eat small berries to sustain themselves.
They mainly feed on insects such as small grasshoppers, bugs, beetles, wasps, flies, ants, etc. they can occasionally feed on spiders and berries.
California Gnatcatcher Habitat
These birds inhabit coastal sage scrub, desert scrub, and coastal dune scrub along the
western coasts of the United States and Mexico. In California, they occur along the Pacific
coast in areas that are dominated by California sagebrush. Although they are generally
found in areas at less than 1,600 feet in elevation, they sometimes occur at higher altitudes
at inland scrub sites. In the Baja California peninsula, they are found in sparse desert
woodlands, coastal dune scrubs, and desert scrubs. They may also be found foraging in
chaparral areas bordering sage scrub during the winter months. In California, their
populations have seen a drastic drop as roughly 70 – 90 % of coastal sage scrubs have
been developed into suburban areas.
They thrive in coastal dune scrub, desert scrub, and coastal sage scrub throughout the year. However, few can be found on the California coast. They prefer coastal sage scrub with salvia and sagebrush. Those that thrive in Mexico can be found in desert scrub and coastal dune scrub.
Range and Migration
California Gnatcatchers are solitary gray birds that have a limited range along the Pacific
coast of the United States and Mexico. These birds are year-round residents of the stretch of
land that extends from southern California to southern Baja California in Mexico. The coastal
sage scrub and desert scrub are the most suitable to the livelihoods of these birds, causing
them to be classified as endangered as more scrub habitats are developed into suburban
California Gnatcatcher Lifecycle
The females lay 3-5 eggs which are incubated by both parents. Both feed the young and during hot days they shelter the eggs by standing outside the nest. The young leave the nest after 15-16 days.
California Gnatcher Nesting
Nesting sites are selected by the males in sagebrush, buckwheat, or other shrub species by
a gentle slope, or within the drainage. These sites are usually around 2.5 feet above the
ground but tend to be less than 4 feet high. Breeding pairs remain together throughout the
year on permanent territories, with both members assisting in the construction of the nest.
Males generally involve themselves in tasks that are more labor-intensive, such as
building a solid base out of bark, dried vegetation, and spiderwebs. Females then add softer
material to line the cup with and to provide insulation. These items include grass, leaves,
plant down, feather, and animal hair. The resulting nest is a deep cup around 2.5 inches
wide and more than 2.5 inches deep.
Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes
At Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.
Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying California Gnatcatchers
The most common types of bird watching binoculars for viewing California Gnatcatchers are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.
California Gnatcatcher T-shirts
If you love the California Gnatcatcher you should purchase a Bird Watching Academy & Camp T-shirt. To help support bird conservation we donate 10 percent to bird conservation activities.
California Gnatcatcher Iron On Patches
Kids, Youth, and Adults love to collect our Bird Watching Academy & Camp iron-on patches. Our bird-watching patches help you keep track of the birds you have seen and identified. You can also display the patches on our Bird Watching Academy & Camp banners.
The California Gnatcatcher is a great iron-on patch to start your collection with. The patches are durable and can be sewn on or ironed on to just about anything.
California Gnatcatcher Stickers
Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the California Gnatcatcher. We sell a monthly subscription sticker pack. The sticker packs have 12 bird stickers. These sticker packs will help your kids learn new birds every month.
Bird Feeders for California Gnatcatchers
There are many types of bird feeders. Here are our favorite bird feeders for your backyard. We use all of these bird feeders currently. Kids will have a great time watching birds eat at these bird feeders. Using this collection of bird feeders will provide a wide variety and many types of birds.
Best Bird Houses for California Gnatcatchers
There are many types of birdhouses. Building a birdhouse is always fun but can be frustrating. These 4 birdhouses have become our favorites. Getting a birdhouse for kids to watch birds grow is always fun. We spent a little extra money on these birdhouses but they have been worth the higher price and look great.