Polioptila Melanura – Black-Tailed Gnatcatcher

Polioptila Melanura - Black-Tailed Gnatcatcher

Polioptila melanura, the black-tailed gnatcatcher, is a tiny, insectivorous bird that may be found across the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, where it can be found in large flocks. It is a nonmigratory species that may be found year-round in dry desert environments.

Quick Overview: Polioptila Melanura – Black-Tailed Gnatcatcher
Body size: Around 4 in (10 cm) and a weight of 6 g ( .2 oz)
Main colors: Black, White, Blue-Gray
Range: Southwest United States
Migratory Bird: No
Best time of the year to see in the U.S.: All Year (January – December)
Conservation Status: Least Concern

Black-tailed gnatcatcher Description

Birds with a thin beak and tail, such as the Black-tailed gnatcatcher, are tiny blue-gray birds. They are quite energetic. The breeding male is distinguished by the presence of a black crown, which is not present in the basic plumage. Each individual has a tail that is primarily black in color with a tiny bit of white at the tips of the outer retrices on both males and females.

Polioptila Melanura - Black-Tailed Gnatcatcher
Polioptila Melanura – Black-Tailed Gnatcatcher. Photo by: Ryanacandee


These birds have a length of 4 in (10 cm) and a weight of 6 g ( .2 oz). Their wings could range 6 in (15 cm).


In general, gnatcatchers obtain their food by snatching insects off the ends of branching plants. They are most often spotted doing this while perched, but they have also been observed doing it while hovering near the branch tips. They also devour spiders, which is unusual. They may catch insects in flight by foraying into the air from a perch on a branch or tree.


Gnatcatchers may be found in many types of open habitats. It is the Black-Tailed Gnatcatcher’s preferred habitat: dry scrublands. They can be found in large numbers in desert washes.


The Black-tailed Gnatcatcher is active all year long in the desert regions that it inhabits, and it may be found in all seasons. During the summer, they are less physically active, although they may still be seen feeding in shaded areas with a cooler microclimate during the warmest times of the day.

Polioptila melanura Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Polioptilidae
  • Genus: Polioptila
  • Species: Polioptila melanura

Best time of the year to see

In the United States, the best time of year to see these birds is all year round, regardless of the season. This refers to any month of the year between January and December.

Distribution of the Black-tailed gnatcatcher in the USA

Black-tailed Gnatcatchers may be found across northern and central Mexico, as well as the deserts of the United States’ southwest region.

The Black-tailed gnatcatcher can be found in the following states in the United States – Alaska, Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas.

Polioptila Melanura – Black-Tailed Gnatcatcher

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