California Gnatcatcher

Photo © Karen Straus/San Diego Audubon Society

Fun Facts:

  • They lightly dart through shrubs like they are being blown by a breeze.
  • They lay white eggs with reddish-brown spots.
  • They live in coastal sage and desert scrub from Southern California to Southern Baja California in Mexico.

This little bird looks so vibrant it is hard to tell it is just 4 to 5 inches long and weighs only 0.2 oz (6 grams). These birds are on the Endangered Species List because development has
destroyed much of their habitat. They live only in coastal Southern California and Baja California, and only in “coastal sage scrub,” an ecosystem of low-growing native shrubs. Rose Canyon provides a refuge where they have survived. They are hard to see because they forage in the bushes for insects and spiders, but you might hear their call, a kitten-like mew. The male and female build their nest using grass, bark, and plant fibers held together with spider silk.


What other bird poses a major threat to California gnatcatchers?

Click for the Answer

The brown-headed cowbird is a parasitic species. It doesn’t raise its own babies but instead lays its eggs in the nests of gnatcatchers. Cowbird chicks outcompete with the gnatcatchers and the gnatcatcher parents end up raising cowbirds instead of their own babies.