Black-Capped Gnatcatcher

Polioptila nigriceps
Range Map

The Black-Capped Gnatcatcher is the rarest gnatcatcher in the USA. Southern Arizona is one of the few places they live north of the Mexican border. Like their other gnatcatcher cousins, these birds do not migrate, but remain year-round wherever they live. This species bears a strong resemblance to other gnatcatchers, especially the California and Black-Tailed Gnatcatchers. This bird is unlikely to get confused with the California Gnatcatcher, as their territories are hundreds of miles apart. However, the more common Black-Tailed Gnatcatchers’ range overlaps with the Black-Capped in Arizona. Both birds have white feathers under the tail, but the Black-Capped Gnatcatcher is nearly all white, with a strip of black down the middle and at the tip.

Taxonomists call out two subspecies of Black-Capped Gnatcatcher:

  • P. n. restricta lives in southeastern Arizona where it breeds sporadically, and western Mexico from eastern Sonora south to northern Sinaloa.
  • P. n. nigriceps lives in western Mexico from central Sinaloa to Colima.

I was lucky enough to meet these birds in Lower Madera Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains east of Green Valley Arizona. I understand their Arizona presence is sporadic and will vary from season to season.

Click map markers to reveal further information