Family Gnatcatchers (Polioptilidae)

Least Concern

Tropical Gnatcatcher (Polioptila plumbea)


French: Gobemoucheron tropical German: Amazonasmückenfänger Spanish: Perlita tropical

Todus plumbeus

J. F. Gmelin

, 1788,



In past, occasionally suggested to be conspecific with P. lactea. Hitherto treated as conspecific with P. maior. Remaining races form two groups, i.e. the “bilineata group” (also including superciliaris, brodkorbi and cinericia) and the “plumbea group” (with all other races); both share typical song of a series of more or less identical notes, which tends to reduce the possibility of their representing two species. Relative distributions of nominate race and innotata in E Brazil (roughly from C Pará E to WC Maranhão) unclear; more study needed. Records from E Ecuador and adjacent N Peru (NW Loreto) tentatively referred to race parvirostris; locality of a specimen labelled as this race from W Brazil (C Amazonas) is roughly equidistant from localities represented by innotata, nominate and parvirostris. Original description of cinericia based on comparison with bilineata, rather than with adjacent mainland superciliaris; study needed to clarify if cinericia is a synonym of latter. Eleven subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. p. brodkorbi Parkes, 1979 – lowlands of S Mexico (E Veracruz and NE Oaxaca E to E Yucatán Peninsula) S through lowlands of N & C Guatemala and Belize to N Costa Rica.
  • P. p. superciliaris Lawrence, 1861 – lowlands from NC Costa Rica S to S Panama, possibly to N Colombia.
  • P. p. cinericia Wetmore, 1957 – Coiba I, off S Panama.
  • P. p. bilineata (Bonaparte, 1850) – White-browed Gnatcatcher – Caribbean and Pacific coasts of NW Colombia S, W of Andes, to NW Peru (NW La Libertad).
  • P. p. daguae Chapman, 1915 – upper Cauca Valley (C Valle del Cauca S to CS Cauca), in S Colombia.
  • P. p. anteocularis Hellmayr, 1900 – upper Magdalena Valley (Huila), in S Colombia.
  • P. p. plumbiceps Lawrence, 1865 – NE & E Colombia (C La Guajira S in lowlands to CN Boyacá, SC Casanare and C Meta) and Venezuela (including Margarita I).
  • P. p. innotata Hellmayr, 1901 – E Colombia (E Vichada, NE Guainía) E to C Guyana and N Brazil (S to NE Roraima, W Pará, N Tocantins and NC Goiás).
  • P. p. plumbea (J. F. Gmelin, 1788) – Tropical Gnatcatcher – Suriname, French Guiana, and N Brazil (C to NW Pará, E & NW Maranhão).
  • P. p. parvirostris Sharpe, 1885 – E of Andes in E Ecuador, N Peru (Loreto S to Madre de Dios#R) and NW Brazil.
  • P. p. atricapilla (Swainson, 1831) – #RNE Brazil (lowlands from C Maranhão E to Ceará and Pernambuco and S to Brasília and NC Minas Gerais).
  • Descriptive notes

    10–12 cm; 4·8–8 g. Bill short and slender, narrowing to fine, slightly hooked tip. Male nominate race has sharply defined glossy black crown extending to... read more


    Vocalizations differ geographically; study needed, however, to clarify whether different renderings... read more


    Found in diverse habitats, including forest edge, overgrown pasture, coffee plantations, mature... read more

    Food and feeding

    Feeds on small arthropods and spiders (Araneae). In Venezuela, 55% of prey items obtained from stomach emetic samples were small (less than... read more


    Breeding reported mid-Mar in Mexico (Veracruz), Feb–Jun in Costa Rica, Mar–Oct in N Colombia, May–Sept in N Venezuela,... read more



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Common and widespread in Panama, Venezuela, Colombia and Suriname. In Ecuador, fairly common to common W of Andes but uncommon and... read more

    Recommended citation

    Atwood, J., Lerman, S. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Tropical Gnatcatcher (Polioptila plumbea). 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 25 May 2019).