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Gray Catbird Catbird

Identification and Pictures

(Dumetella carolinensis)Catbird

Gray Catbirds are slate gray songbirds 8 to 9 1/4 inches.  They have a black cap, dark slender bill, black legs, and a long black tail.  Under tail coverts are chestnut, and are not often seen.  Males, females and juveniles have similar plumage.  They are always flipping their tail.

Photos by Keith Lee.  The camera I use is the Canon EOS 40D.

     catbird

Catbirds are known by other names such as, black mockingbird, cat flycatcher, and black-capped thrush.

Catbird sound

They get their name from the catlike meowing note they make.  Their song is a series of disjointed notes and phrases.  They are good at imitating other birds such as jays, hawks, quails, and many songbirds.  Catbirds will start singing before dawn, and still be singing when it gets dark.

Preferred Habitat

Catbirds can be found through Canada, and south through much of the U.S.  Most Catbirds migrate to the southern U.S., Mexico, and Central America for the winter.  They prefer dense thickets, like the undergrowth along stream sides, wet, dense-vegetation, and bushes in bogs.  They like bathing, and can often be seen splashing around the edges of small ponds.

Breeding and Nesting

Catbirds breed from April through August.  Males arrive on the nesting grounds a few days before the females, and begin singing.  During nesting season he will spend much time singing, and defending his territory from anything that gets close.  During courtship the two birds can be seen in chases, dashing in and out of shrubbery.  The birds normally mate for life.  The nest is cup of twigs, weeds, leaves, and grass lined with finer material such as pine needles, and hair.  Their nests are usually well hidden in thick shrubbery.  Both birds may gather nesting material but she will build the nest to her liking.  When he brings material he will give it to her for construction.  The female will incubate 3 to 6 blue-green eggs for 12 to 15 days.  Both parents feed the young birds.  The young leave the nest when in 10 to 15 days, and the parents will continue to feed them for around 12 days.  It is common for the birds to have more than one brood in a season.  They are often victims of cowbirds, which lay their eggs in the nests of other birds.  Catbirds are better at detecting the cowbird eggs than many other song birds, and often eject them.

Food 

They eat berries, fruit, seeds, and insects.  They often forage on the ground, flipping leaves over with their bills for insects such as beetles, caterpillars, grasshoppers, and ants.  They will visit feeders for things like nuts, and berries.

For more on food and feeding click here.

To learn about other favorite birds click here.

 
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