Gray Catbird

(Dumetella carolinensis)

The Gray Catbird is a medium-sized, slate-gray birds with black caps and tails, and chestnut undertail coverts.

Males, females, and juveniles look similar. Catbirds hold their tails cocked up.


In all seasons, Catbirds inhabit dense undergrowth dominated by saplings and shrubs.

They are found most often along streams, where thick, low growth is common, but they can also be found away from water at edges and in other thicket areas.

Thickets of poplar, red-osier dogwood, wild rose, and willow are all commonly inhabited by Catbirds.

You can also attract them to your wildlife gardens,

Gray catbird


Gray Catbirds often forage on the ground, flipping leaves aside with their bills. When they forage in the shrub layer, they glean food from foliage and twigs.

It is common to see them in your yard and gardens foraging.

They sing a discordant series of sounds that can be alternately tuneful and rasping. They are named for their mewing call and are receptive to pishing.


Catbirds have a varied diet, but primarily eat insects and other small invertebrates during breeding season, and berries and other fruit the rest of the year.

They probably eat more vegetable than animal matter over the course of a year.

Catbirds may visit your oriole feeders and other fruits you put out for your birds.


Catbirds are monogamous and form pairs shortly after they arrive on the breeding grounds.

They nest in dense, broad-leaved thickets and tangles, or low trees.

The female builds the nest, perhaps with material brought by the male. The nest is a large, bulky, open cup, typically supported by horizontal branches and made from twigs, weeds, grass, leaves, and bark strips.

It is fashioned into three layers ranging from a coarse outer layer to a fine inner layer. The female incubates 3-4 eggs for 12-14 days.

Both parents help brood and feed the young, which leave the nest at 8-12 days. The adults continue to feed the fledglings for up to 12 days after they leave the nest.

Catbirds often raise two broods a year, and build a new nest for each brood.


Gray Catbirds are Neotropical migrants that winter in the southeastern US, Mexico, and Central America.

Like many other species whose population is centered east of the Rocky Mountains, Catbirds appear to migrate east first and then south, east of the Rockies.

The Gray Catbird and Other Common Birds

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