Black-Tailed Gnatcatcher

Polioptila melanura
Range Map

Black-Tailed Gnatcatchers live in pairs all year. These birds are nonmigratory and are found in arid desert areas year-round. They thrive among some of the driest and thorniest scrub and brush found in southwestern USA and Mexico. Undisturbed habitats are mandatory for them to nest successfully, and they will often abandon territories if we introduce human structures to their environment.

Their range includes southeastern California, southern Nevada, southern Arizona, Sonora Mexico, southern New Mexico, southeast Texas and northern Mexico south to central Mexico.

Today, taxonomists recognise three subspecies of Black-Tailed Gnatcatcher:

  • P. m. melanura lives in southern New Mexico and the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, south in Mexico through central Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, Tamaulipas, Durango, Guanajuato, and San Luis Potosí.
  • P. m. lucida lives in southern Nevada, southeastern California, Arizona, northern Baja California (Mexico), and on several islands in the Gulf of California.
  • P. m. curtata lives on Tiburón Island, off western Sonora in northwestern Mexico.

Like all their gnatcatcher cousins, these birds are always on the move, flitting through the scrubby elfin forests in the deserts they love. It’s a cheerful moment for me when I meet them in the dry, lonely places they call home. Most of my meetings with these bold watchdogs have been in the deserts of southern California, but southern Nevada, Arizona, and Texas have provided me with their company as well.

Click map markers to reveal further information