|Conservation status||Although many nesting attempts fail because of cowbirds, numbers of this species seem to be holding up well.|
|Habitat||Desert brush, ravines, dry washes, mesquites. Found in many dry, scrubby habitats. Most common in Sonoran desert with varied growth of mesquites, acacias, and paloverdes, but also found in low acacia scrub and on open flats of creosote bush.|
Forages by moving about actively in shrubs and low trees, searching for insects. Often feeds more among leaves during summer and fall, more on bare twigs and branches during winter and early spring. Sometimes hovers to pick items from foliage. Unlike Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, rarely flies out to catch insects in mid-air.
4, sometimes 3-5. Bluish white, very lightly dotted with reddish brown. Incubation is by both parents, about 14 days. Young: Both parents feed the nestlings. Young are reported to leave the nest about 10-15 days after hatching.
Both parents feed the nestlings. Young are reported to leave the nest about 10-15 days after hatching.
Mostly insects. Feeds on a wide variety of small insects, including beetles, true bugs, caterpillars, wasps, ants, flies, moths, small grasshoppers, and many others; also some spiders. Eats small berries at times.
Pairs may remain together all year, defending permanent territories. Cowbirds often lay eggs in nests of this species, and some gnatcatcher pairs wind up raising only young cowbirds. Nest site is in a low shrub, usually in a vertical fork less than 5' above the ground. Nest (built by both sexes) is a compact open cup of plant fibers, grass, weeds, strips of bark, spiderwebs, plant down, and other items, lined with softer materials such as fine plant down, feathers, and animal hair.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.
Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
Download Our Bird Guide App
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for over 450 bird species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsThe common call is a harsh 2- or 3-note wren-like scold: chee chee chee.
Learn more about this sound collection.
How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Black-tailed Gnatcatcher
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the Black-tailed Gnatcatcher
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.