Common Name: Gray
Species: Dumetella carolinensis
photo Ivan Andrijevic
The Gray Catbird is a member of the Order Passeriformes
which means perching birds. It is in the Family Mimidae
which is comprised of Thrashers and Mockingbirds. It is
a member of the Genus Dumetella which contains Catbirds.
photo Ivan Andrijevic
The Gray Catbird is a
medium sized songbird, and the majority of it's body is
colored a dark gray. These birds have small bills and
long tails. The defining features of a Gray Catbird are
a black cap on the very top of it's head, and black
tail feathers. They also have a distinctive rusty patch
of feathers under the tail. The legs, eyes and the beak
are all black in color.
Gray Catbirds are found throughout most of North America
in urban, suburban and rural areas. The Gray Catbird can
commonly be found in dense areas of low growth, such as
shrubs. They can commonly be found along forest edges or
clearings, along road sides, or stream sides.
The Gray Catbird will feed on insects and small fruits.
It will eat the insects off of plants and off of the
The Gray Catbird will migrate to the Southeastern U.S.,
Mexico and Central America in winter in groups, while
spending summer at higher latitudes. They have been
found to be particularly unafraid of predators. When a
threat approaches they will display by ruffling their
feathers and make their distinctive mewing call, before
possibly attacking the predator, so overall they will
react aggressively. They will defend a small territory
around their nest from year to year, though, they rarely
nest in the same spot the next year. During the summer,
when they are mating, a male and a female will defend a
single territory, but when it is winter, the same pair
will defend separate territories.
Gray Catbirds form monogamous breeding pairs, meaning
they only have one mate, and these pairs form when they
come back to summer breeding areas. The female will
build a bulky nest of leaves and twigs close to the
ground, and will lay between 1 and 5 light blue eggs.
Incubation lasts for 12-13 days.
Both parents will feed the young, who are born altricial,
once they are hatched. Altricial means that they are
immobile, blind and helpless. The young are able to
leave the nest 10-11 days after they hatch.
Brown-Headed Cowbirds will lay their eggs in a Gray
Catbird's nest. However, the Gray Catbird can almost
always recognize a Cowbird egg, and will eject it from
Gray Catbirds are known and named for a
mewing sound that resembles that of a cat, however they
can make 100s of sounds. They have many whistles and
squeaks, and can also mimic sounds they hear, including
other birds, frogs, and even machines.
Where to see them in WNY
Gray Catbirds can be found
throughout Western New York along less traveled
roadsides, and in parks with dense brush along the edge
of the forest. A particular place to see them would be
at the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, where they are
seen rather commonly.