Polioptilidae – Gnatcatchers

Cuban Gnatcatcher Polioptila lembeyei ©Will Price Website

These species of small passerine birds in the gnatcatcher family occur in North and South America (except for the far south and the high Andean regions). Most species of this mainly tropical and subtropical group are resident, but the blue-grey gnatcatcher of the US and southern Canada migrates south in winter. They are close relatives of the wrens

These dainty birds are intermediate between Old World warblers and wrens in their structure and habits, moving restlessly through foliage seeking insects. The gnatcatchers are mainly soft bluish grey in colour, and have the typical insectivore’s long sharp bill. Many species have distinctive black head patterns (especially males) and long, regularly cocked, black-and-white tails. The skulking gnatwrens are browner, more thickset, and with proportionally shorter tails and longer bills.

. Gnatwrens typically occur in the undergrowth of dense, often humid, forest, while gnatcatchers, depending on the species involved, occur in anything from dry scrubby habitats (e.g. the California Gnatcatcher) to the canopy of humid Amazonian forest (e.g. the Guianan Gnatcatcher). The North American species nest in bushes or trees, but the breeding behaviour of several of the Neotropical species is essentially unknown

There are generally thought to be 18 species of Gnatcatchers and Gnatwrens in three genera in the family Polioptilidae; they are:

Collared Gnatwren Microbates collaris
Tawny-faced Gnatwren Microbates cinereiventris

Long-billed Gnatwren Ramphocaenus melanurus

Blue-grey Gnatcatcher Polioptila caerulea
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher Polioptila melanura
California Gnatcatcher Polioptila californica
Cuban Gnatcatcher Polioptila lembeyei
White-lored Gnatcatcher Polioptila albiloris
Black-capped Gnatcatcher Polioptila nigriceps
Tropical Gnatcatcher Polioptila plumbea
Creamy-bellied Gnatcatcher Polioptila lactea
Guianan Gnatcatcher Polioptila guianensis
Rio Negro Gnatcatcher Polioptila facilis
Inambari Gnatcatcher Polioptila attenboroughi
Para Gnatcatcher Polioptila paraensis
Iquitos Gnatcatcher Polioptila clementsi
Slate-throated Gnatcatcher Polioptila schistaceigula
Masked Gnatcatcher Polioptila dumicola

Species Links
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Polioptila caerulea

    IUCN Species Status
    This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion.
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Polioptila caerulea

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Polioptila caerulea

    Species Account
    The blue-gray gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea) is a very small songbird, 10–13 cm (3.9–5.1 in) in length and weighing only 5–7 g (0.18–0.25 oz).[2][3] Adult males are blue-gray on the upperparts with white underparts, have a slender dark bill, and a long black tail edged in white. Females are less blue. Both sexes have a white eye ring.
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Polioptila caerulea

    Cornell Species Account
    A tiny, long-tailed bird of broadleaf forests and scrublands, the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher makes itself known by its soft but insistent calls and its constant motion.
  • California Gnatcatcher Polioptila californica

    Species Account
    Endangered. The small amount of remaining habitat in California is being rapidly turned into housing developments. Nesting attempts often fail, partly because of cowbird parasitism.
  • California Gnatcatcher Polioptila californica

    Species Account
    The California gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica) is a small 10.8 cm (4.3 in) 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.
  • Cuban Gnatcatcher Polioptila lembeyei

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Cuban Gnatcatcher Polioptila lembeyei

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Culicivora lembeyei Gundlach, 1858, eastern Cuba.Monotypic.
  • Cuban Gnatcatcher Polioptila lembeyei

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map
  • Cuban Gnatcatcher Polioptila lembeyei

    Species Account
    The Cuban gnatcatcher (Polioptila lembeyei) is a species of bird in the Polioptilidae family, the gnatcatchers. It is endemic to Cuba.
  • Cuban Gnatcatcher Polioptila lembeyei

    Cornell Species Account
    The Cuban Gnatcatcher was described by the most famous of this island’s ornithologists, the naturalised Juan (Johannes) Gundlach, for one of his predecessor’s, Juan Lembeye, who published an early catalog of the country’s avifauna.
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 18

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