Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)

gray catbird

Gray catbird./Tom Berriman

General: The gray catbird’s plumage is slate gray with a black cap and a black tail with a reddish brown underside. The bird is named for its call, which suggests a cat’s meow. Along with the northern mockingbird and brown thrasher, the gray catbird belongs to family Mimidae; these birds mimic the calls of other species, stringing them together into long, variable songs. Gray catbirds eat fruits, beetles, ants, caterpillars, and other insects, often foraging on the ground and using their bills to flick aside leaves and twigs in search of food. They breed in low dense shrubs, young trees, and vine tangles, often in forest clearings or edges, or along river floodplains, and also in similar habitats within developed areas. They place their nests in briars, thickets, or shrubby trees 3 to 9 feet above the ground. During migration and winter, gray catbirds also seek out dense young forest for food and cover.

Status: In general, gray catbirds are considered common throughout their range, although their populations have declined in some states and regions.

How to Help Gray Catbirds: Studies have shown that gray catbirds will breed in tracts of cutover forest where dense woody vegetation – small trees and shrubs – have begun growing back.
Both public and private landowners can make young forest habitat. The Young Forest Guide explains how.

Click on the map at left to see a larger image.

For more detailed information on this animal, including references to scientific papers, download Under Cover: Wildlife of Shrublands and Young Forest. This publication can also be purchased from the Wildlife Management Institute.

Visit a habitat demonstration area within this species' range to increase your chances of seeing gray catbirds and other wildlife that use young forest.