Bird’s ID – Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird

The Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis),  is a medium-sized North American and Central American perching bird of the mimid family. It is the only member of the “catbird” genus Dumetella. 

Adults weigh from 23.2 to 56.5 g (0.82 to 1.99 oz), with an average of 35–40 g (1.2–1.4 oz) They range in length from 20.5 to 24 cm (8.1 to 9.4 in) and span 22 to 30 cm (8.7 to 11.8 in) across the wings. Among standard measurements, the wing chord is 8.4 to 9.8 cm (3.3 to 3.9 in), the tail is 7.2 to 10.3 cm (2.8 to 4.1 in), the culmen is 1.5 to 1.8 cm (0.59 to 0.71 in) and the tarsus is 2.7 to 2.9 cm (1.1 to 1.1 in). Gray catbirds are plain lead gray almost all over. The top of the head is darker. The undertail coverts are rust-colored, and the remiges and rectrices are black, some with white borders. The slim bill, the eyes, and the legs and feet are also blackish. Males and females cannot be distinguished by their looks; different behaviours in the breeding season is usually the only clue to the observer. Juveniles are even plainer in coloration, with buffy undertail coverts.

This species is named for its cat-like call. Like many members of the Mimidae (most famously mockingbirds), it also mimics the songs of other birds, as well as those of Hylidae (tree frogs), and even mechanical sounds. Because of its well-developed songbird syrinx, it is able to make two sounds at the same time. The alarm call resembles the quiet calls of a male mallard.

A gray catbird’s song is easily distinguished from that of the northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) or brown thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) because the mockingbird repeats its phrases or “strophes” three to four times, the thrasher usually twice, but the catbird sings most phrases only once. The catbird’s song is usually described as more raspy and less musical than that of a mockingbird.

In contrast to the many songbirds that choose a prominent perch from which to sing, the catbird often elects to sing from inside a bush or small tree, where it is obscured from view by the foliage.

Photo Gallery

© HJ Ruiz – Avian101

13 thoughts on “Bird’s ID – Gray Catbird

  1. Interesting how your Catbird is so different to ours and they both mimic and have cat-like calls. Our Catbirds are in the Bowerbird family which separates them even more especially in the beak and body shape. Thanks HJ for introducing me to your birds, especially ones I have not seen or heard of.

    • Don’t thank me Ashley, it’s my pleasure and the main reason that I give a lot of my time to birds, I want people to be familiar with birds and learn to love them. Thank you for friendship and for being my blog reader. 🙂

  2. Nice shots, HJ! I remember the first time I saw/photographed this bird. I heard a kitty cat meowing in the bushes close to me. Of course, I’m looking for a kitty cat, maybe it was hurt or lost? LOL Figured it out, of course, when the Gray Catbird popped out onto a branch and called again! I had a good laugh for sure. 🙂

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