Family Gnatcatchers (Polioptilidae)

Least Concern

Blue-grey Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea)


French: Gobemoucheron gris-bleu German: Blaumückenfänger Spanish: Perlita grisilla

Motacilla caerulea


, 1766,

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA


Geographical differences over extensive range minor; race caesiogaster very similar to, and sometimes synonymized with, nominate; amoenissima sometimes considered synonymous with obscura, and treatment as separate races based largely on apparently disjunct distribution of latter; proposed race gracilis (described from SE Sonora) usually included in obscura, and race mexicana in nominate. More study needed; listed ranges of races tentative. Nine subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. c. amoenissima Grinnell, 1926 – W USA (S Oregon E to SW Wyoming) S to W Mexico (Baja California, on mainland S possibly to SE Coahuila and W Zacatecas); non-breeding SW USA (CW California, W & C Arizona, S New Mexico, W Texas) and Mexico (S to Jalisco and San Luis Potosí).
  • P. c. caerulea (Linnaeus, 1766) – from SE Canada S in USA to E Nebraska, C Kansas, C Texas and S Florida; non-breeding SE USA S to Mexico (S from C & SC Sinaloa), Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, and (perhaps this race) Cuba.
  • P. c. obscura Ridgway, 1883 – extreme S Baja California Sur (W Mexico).
  • P. c. perplexa A. R. Phillips, 1991 – E Mexico from SE Coahuila and SW Nuevo León S on E part of high plateau to NE San Luis Potosí, possibly to S Hidalgo.
  • P. c. deppei van Rossem, 1934 – E & S Mexico from WC Nuevo León and Tamaulipas S to E San Luis Potosí (possibly also Tlaxcala and Puebla), and Yucatán S to Isthmus of Tehuantepec and N & W Chiapas; probably also Belize; N populations non-breeding in S Mexico (Morelos, C & N Michoacán and from S Guerrero) E in Pacific lowlands to Guatemala.
  • P. c. comiteca A. R. Phillips, 1991 – SC Mexico (from N Hidalgo and Michoacán) S in semi-arid highlands to NW Guatemala.
  • P. c. nelsoni Ridgway, 1903 – Oaxaca (except S), in S Mexico.
  • P. c. cozumelae Griscom, 1926 – Cozumel I, off NE Yucatán Peninsula (Mexico).
  • P. c. caesiogaster Ridgway, 1887 – Bahamas and Turks and Caicos.
  • Descriptive notes

    10–12 cm; 5–7 g. Bill short and slender, narrowing to fine, slightly hooked tip; fairly prominent rictal bristles. Male nominate race in breeding plumage has... read more


    Thin, nasal contact calls, dominant frequency c. 6 kHz, with mixed overtones, delivery rate c. 60... read more


    Most varied of all gnatcatcher species; wooded habitats ranging from shrublands to mature forest;... read more

    Food and feeding

    Prey items include small, sessile arthropods. In USA, mostly bugs (Hemiptera, including homopterans), beetles (Coleoptera) and spiders (... read more


    Following details based on studies of nominate race and amoenissima; comparable information mostly lacking for other races.... read more


    N populations (nominate and amoenissima) migratory, spending non-breeding season in S USA... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common in N of range; fairly common to common but local in S. The two N races (nominate and amoenissima) are also the most widely... read more

    Recommended citation

    Atwood, J. & Lerman, S. (2017). Blue-grey Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 23 November 2017).