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White-lored Gnatcatcher

Polioptila albiloris

The White-lored Gnatcatcher, scientifically known as Polioptila albiloris, is a diminutive and sprightly bird, measuring a mere 11 to 12 centimeters in length and tipping the scales at a lightweight 6 to 9 grams. This species exhibits sexual dimorphism; the male, in his breeding attire, sports a striking black cap that extends down to his eyes and includes the nape, while his upperparts are a bluish gray. His tail is a stark black with contrasting white outer feathers. The throat is a pristine white, which gently transitions into a pale bluish gray across the breast and flanks. The female, on the other hand, is adorned with a more subdued dark gray cap, but she shares the characteristic white lores and supercilium that give this species its name. Juveniles resemble the female but have a browner hue to their upperparts.

Identification Tips

To identify the White-lored Gnatcatcher, look for the male's distinctive black cap and the white lores that are present in both sexes. The bird's small size, bluish-gray upperparts, and the black and white pattern on the tail are also key features. The subspecies P. a. vanrossemi can be distinguished by a larger black cap and longer wings and tail compared to the nominate subspecies.

Habitat

The White-lored Gnatcatcher is typically found in arid to semi-arid environments, including scrublands, thorn forests, deciduous woodlands, and secondary forests. It tends to avoid the interiors of dense woodlands, preferring more open areas.

Distribution

This species is distributed across several Central American countries, ranging from central Guatemala through Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, and extending into northwestern Costa Rica. The subspecies P. a. vanrossemi is endemic to Mexico, inhabiting the southern regions of Michoacán, México, and Puebla, down to most of Chiapas.

Behaviour

The White-lored Gnatcatcher is an active forager, primarily gleaning insects from foliage but also adept at making short flights to snatch insects from the air. It is a sociable bird, often seen flitting about in pairs or small groups.

Song & Calls

This bird has a repertoire of vocalizations, including two distinct songs: a "simple" and a "complex" variation. It also communicates with a variety of calls, which can be heard on resources such as Xeno-canto.

Breeding

Breeding season for the White-lored Gnatcatcher spans from March to August. Both sexes collaborate in constructing their nest, a meticulously crafted deep cup made of grass and roots, bound together with spider silk and lined with fine grass, hair, and other soft materials. The typical clutch consists of four eggs. Notably, nests are sometimes parasitized by Bronzed and Brown-headed Cowbirds.

Similar Species

The White-lored Gnatcatcher was once considered conspecific with the Black-capped Gnatcatcher and closely related to the Yucatan Gnatcatcher, which was previously treated as a subspecies. Observers should note the differences in cap size and wing and tail length when differentiating between these species.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the White-lored Gnatcatcher is composed of a variety of adult insects, caterpillars, and spiders. Its foraging technique is mostly gleaning from foliage, but it will also perform aerial sallies to capture flying insects.

Conservation status

The IUCN has classified the White-lored Gnatcatcher as Least Concern. There are no immediate threats to the subspecies, as they do not inhabit ecoregions that are considered to be at serious risk.

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White-lored Gnatcatchers on Birda

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A photo of a Blue-grey Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea) , male

Blue-grey Gnatcatcher

Polioptila caerulea
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