Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
Photo: Morris Finkelstein/Audubon Photography Awards
|Conservation status||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.|
|Habitat||Coastal sage scrub. In limited range on California coast, found only in coastal sage scrub. This is a habitat of low shrubs (mostly 3-6' tall), generally dominated by California sagebrush, buckwheat, salvia, and prickly-pear cactus. In Baja California, also found in other kinds of scrub.|
Forages by moving about actively in shrubs and low trees, searching for insects. 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, finely dotted with reddish brown. Incubation is by both parents, about 14 days. On hot days, adults may stand on nest and shade the eggs. Young: Fed by both parents. Young leave the nest about 15-16 days after hatching.
Fed by both parents. Young leave the nest about 15-16 days after hatching.
Mostly insects. Feeds on a wide variety of small insects, including true bugs, beetles, caterpillars, scale insects, wasps, ants, flies, moths, small grasshoppers, and many others; also some spiders. May eat small berries at times.
Adults often remain together in pairs throughout the year on permanent territories. In California, nesting season is from late February to mid-July. Brown-headed Cowbirds often lay eggs in nests of this bird, and the gnatcatchers may wind up raising only young cowbirds. Nest site is in dense low shrub, usually less than 4' above the ground. Nest (built by both sexes) is a compact cup of grass, bark strips, leaves, spiderwebs, plant down, and other items, lined with fine plant fibers, feathers, and animal hair.
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