Black-tailed Gnatcatcher Polioptila melanura

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Polioptilidae
  • Polytypic: 3 subspecies
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Photos from this Account

Breeding male

Tiny, slim songbird with a thin, straight bill, and a long tail. Gray overall with a mostly black tail. Breeding males have a black cap.


Tiny songbird with a thin bill and long tail. Females are grayish above and whitish below. Their tail is mostly black with white tips on the outer tail feathers that are visible in flight and from underneath when perched.

Nonbreeding male

Small and dainty with a small bill and long tail. Grayish above and white below. Note black line above the eye on nonbreeding males.

Breeding male

Breeding males have a black cap. Note the white ovals on an otherwise black tail.


Small energetic bird with an expressive tail. The tail is mostly black except for white spots on the outer tail feathers. Those white edges form ovals on a closed tail as seen from beneath.

Nonbreeding male

Tiny bird that flits from desert shrub to desert shrub twitching its tail side to side and up and down. Nonbreeding males have a thin black line over the eye.


Found in desert scrub with ocotillo, prickly pear, cholla, and mesquite as well as washes densely lined with creosote and salt bush.

Recommended Citation

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher (Polioptila melanura), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: