California Gnatcatcher

Polioptila californica

In 1993, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service listed the California Gnatcatcher as threatened, and in some areas endangered. The cause is listed as the ever-increasing development in its coastal sage scrub habitat. The insatiable greed of real estate developers had dramatically whittled their habitat. The places that these birds depend on for their survival were reduced to fewer and fewer locations. Especially in southern California. They have been like proverbial canaries in the coal mine. Efforts to save these birds protected some small remaining patches of suitable habitat. And so we preserved a few remanents of those fragile ecosystems. While the species is hanging on and surviving in these few remaining locations, the pressure from developers has not abated.

Today’s taxonomists call out three subspecies of California Gnatcatcher:

  • P. c. californica lives in southwestern California and south to northwestern Baja California (Mexico).
  • P. c. pontilis lives in central Baja California (Mexico).
  • P. c. margaritae lives in southern Baja California (Mexico).

As with their other gnatcatcher cousins, I have found these birds equally bold and inquisitive when I’ve met them. Their catlike mewing calls are unlike other members of their clan. Only the Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher’s range overlaps with these birds in southern California. The entire range for this species extends south, the full length of the Baja California peninsula in Mexico.

Range Map for California Gnatcatcher
Range Map

10 Photos

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