Fr: Gobemoucheron de Cuba
Ang: Cuban Gnatcatcher
All: Kubamückenfänger
Esp: Perlita Cubana
Ita: Pigliamoschini di Cuba
Nd: Cubaanse Muggenvanger
Sd: Kubansk myggsnappare

Photographers:

Ken Havard
His Bird Pictures on IBC et Flickr gallery

William Price
PBase-tereksandpiper & Flickr William Price  

Text by Nicole Bouglouan

Sources :

HANDBOOK OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD Vol 11 by Josep del Hoyo, Andrew Elliott and David Christie - Lynx Edicions - ISBN: 849655306X

BIRDS OF THE WEST INDIES – by Herbert Raffaele, Kristin Williams et Tracy Pedersen – Helm – ISBN: 9780713649055

Avibase (Denis Lepage)

BirdLife International

HBW Alive

Neotropical Birds – Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Arthur Grosset's Birds (Arthur Grosset) 

The Birds of Cuba

Authentic Cuba – Birds of Cuba

The Nature of Delaware

 

Home page

Page Passeriforme Order

Summary Cards

 

Cuban Gnatcatcher
Polioptila lembeyei

Passeriformes Order – Polioptilidae Family

INTRODUCTION:
The Cuban Gnatcatcher is endemic to Cuba where it occurs in restricted range, and especially in arid, thorny coastal scrub.
This species is a typical gnatcatcher with its pale blue-grey upperparts and white underparts. The fairly long, graduated tail is actively flicked from side to side while foraging or during the displays.
It is locally common in Cuba, and threatened by habitat conversion through grazing.

DESCRIPTION OF THE BIRD:
Biometrics:
Length: 10-11 cm
Weight: 5 g

The Cuban Gnatcatcher adult male has pale greyish to bluish-grey upperparts. On the upperwing, the flight feathers are blackish with whitish edges, whereas the alula is black and outlined by white. The long, black tail is well-graduated with white outer rectrices.
The underparts are whitish, but the undertail is black.

The head is pale bluish-grey with a distinctive black crescent extending from behind the eye and curving around the ear-coverts. This crescent is more conspicuous during the breeding season. Face, chin and throat are whitish.
The short bill is slender with black upper mandible and greyish lower one with black tip. The eyes are dark brown, surrounded by narrow, white eyering. Legs and feet are blackish.

The female has similar appearance but she is paler, with thinner and less distinct black crescent on head sides.
The juvenile has olive-grey upperparts, creamy-white belly and buffy flanks. The facial pattern is indistinct.      

RANGE:
The Cuban Gnatcatcher is found in Cuba and occurs mainly on the northern coast, E from Cayo Coco. It can be seen locally on the southern coast, E from Cienfuegos.

HABITAT:
The Cuban Gnatcatcher frequents the dense coastal thorn-scrub and may occur sometimes inland in similar habitat type. This habitat is dry, low and very dense, making it impenetrable.

CALLS AND SONGS: SOUNDS BY XENO-CANTO
The Cuban Gnatcatcher gives loud, melodious songs including rambling series of whistles, followed by trill and chattering notes, and thin whisper “pss-psss-psss-psss-tttiizzzt-zzzz-ttizzz-tzi-tzi-tzi”
The typical call is a buzzy “speeee” and the bird also utters a repeated “pyip”.

BEHAVIOUR IN THE WILD:
The Cuban Gnatcatcher feeds on very small arthropods and spiders. It forages actively along branches in the lower parts of the vegetation. The tail is cocked and flicked from side to side while foraging.

They occur in pairs throughout the year, and probably have permanent pair-bonds. The male chases aggressively both intruders and predators. Visual displays and songs are given from perches near the boundary of the territory. These displays include vocal scolds and bill-snapping, tail-fanning and tail-pumping, to enhance the white outer rectrices.
The males are usually more aggressive towards intruders, whereas the females chase mostly juveniles and other females.

The usual courtship displays of gnatcatchers include quiet song by male with the bill pointed upwards and fluffed body feathers. Chases between male and female often lead to the copulation, near or at the nest-site. Courtship feeding by male to female is common during displays and nest-building. Both mates share the nesting duties.

The Cuban Gnatcatcher is resident in its range. It flies over short distances within its restricted range. However, during the territorial chases, the flight is more conspicuous and direct.

REPRODUCTION OF THIS SPECIES:
The breeding season occurs between March and July. The Cuban Gnatcatcher nests among the shrubby vegetation, and the nest is usually well shaded and concealed. It is placed in fork of twigs in thorny bush, between 30 centimetres and 6 metres above the ground.
Both adults build the compact cup-shaped structure with fur, horsehair, plant fibres and small leaves. The inner cup is lined with soft materials including moss and spider webs. The nest-building often lasts several days, between 5 and 13 days.

The female usually lays 3 pale blue to whitish eggs with brown speckles on the larger end. The incubation lasts 13-16 days. The chicks are fed by both parents, and fledge two weeks after hatching.

Nest failures are usually due to predation by reptiles, introduced mammals and cuckoos. But a replacement clutch is often rapidly led after the loss of the first brood.

PROTECTION / THREATS / STATUS:
The Cuban Gnatcatcher has restricted range and is vulnerable to habitat loss due to grazing and habitat conversion.
This species is usually fairly common, but the population is suspected to be declining due to destruction and fragmentation of the habitat.
However, the Cuban Gnatcatcher is currently evaluated as Least Concern.