Gray Catbird
Dumetella carolinensis
Family Mimidae

More often heard than seen, the gray catbird is a shy thicket-dwelling bird that is fairly common in suburban areas.

Identifying Traits (both sexes):

  • Thin, black bill, very slightly curved
  • Slate gray body
  • Black cap
  • Rust-red patch under tail
  • Tail long, often flipped
  • Size: 24 cm (9”)
  • Weight: 56 g (2 oz)

Similar Species: Northern mockingbird has white wing patches, lacks black cap.

  Adult male  

Voice: The gray catbird is so named because of the peculiar mewing sound it produces, which often issues forth from a deep thicket in which the bird has sequestered itself.  Catbird song is a medley of coarse notes, high squeals, and snatches of song mimicked from other birds.  Unlike their fellow mimic thrushes the mockingbirds, catbirds rarely repeat phrases of song.  If frightened near the nest, the catbird responds with a grating ratchet call.

Habitat: Catbirds prefer areas with abundant shrubbery, including edge habitats, early successional forest, and suburban yards.

Range: The gray catbird is a year-round resident throughout the continental U.S., as far west as the Rocky Mountains.

Interesting Facts: The gray catbird is one of the few songbirds that can consistently identify and evict the eggs of the brown-headed cowbird, which is a nest parasite.



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