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Thrashers and Mockingbirds: Mimidae

Gray Catbird (dumetella Carolinensis): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: True to its name, the gray catbird is almost entirely slate gray, with a small patch of black on the top of its head, a black tail, black legs, and rust-colored undertail feathers. Their bill is short, straight, and black. Average size is 8.5 inches (21.5 centimeters) long with a weight of 1.3 ounces (36.8 grams). Both the males and the females of the species are similar in appearance.

Geographic range: The gray catbird can be found in southern Canada (from British Columbia to Nova Scotia) and the central and eastern United States (extending south from Canada down to northeastern Arizona in the West and to northern Florida in the East) during breeding season. This species winters on the east coast, from southern New England down through Florida and along the Gulf Coast into Central America. The gray catbird is also found in the Bahamas, Cuba, and Jamaica.

Habitat: The gray catbird is not a sociable bird, preferring to stay hidden and nest within its preferred habitat, which is dense and shrubby vegetation. Some favorite nesting areas include scrub, abandoned orchards and farmland, the periphery of forests, alongside streams and roads, under cactus pads (leaves), and occasionally within dense shrubbery in residential areas.

Diet: In the spring breeding months gray catbirds are primarily insect eaters, feeding on caterpillars, millipedes, grasshoppers, ants, spiders, and beetles. Starting with summer and into the fall, they start to incorporate more fruit into their diet, preferring grapes and other small fruits. When not foraging under the cover of vegetation, they can be seen walking along the ground using their bills to find insects.

Behavior and reproduction: Gray catbirds build nests under dense cover of scrub or thickets. Their cup-shaped nests are well concealed and woven from vines, twigs, straw, grasses, and occasional bits of paper or plastic. Soft hair and grass lines the inside. The male may help in nest construction, but it is usually the female that does most of the work. She lays a clutch of up to six blue-green eggs, which are incubated for about two weeks. Both male and female feed the hatchlings, who leave the nest about eight to twelve days after they hatch.

Gray catbirds and people: Gray catbirds tend to avoid people and are not considered an agricultural or residential pest.

Conservation status: Gray catbirds are common throughout North and South America. ∎

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsThrashers and Mockingbirds: Mimidae - Thrashers, Mockingbirds, And People, Conservation Status, Gray Catbird (dumetella Carolinensis): Species Accounts - PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS, GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, BEHAVIOR AND REPRODUCTION