Grey Catbird

Common Name: Grey Catbird
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 ground.



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. Both parents will feed the young, who are born altricial, once they are hatched.

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 the nest.


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. is a program of Canisius College, Buffalo, NY.                                                  Web Design by Ivan Andrijevic