Meet Gray Catbirds and How to Attract Them

Calling all catbirds! Follow these easy tips to attract more of these popular songbirds to visit your yard and garden.

How to Identify Catbirds

Gray catbirds are a common summer bird in the eastern U.S. A pretty solid bird size-wise, the catbird is slate gray with a rust red rump and black feathers on the head. Male and female gray catbirds look the same and can’t be differentiated in the field.

What Do Catbirds Eat?

Catbirds have a slew of insects to munch on in summer. They indulge in ants, caterpillars, beetles, grasshoppers and moths. And you might spot gray catbirds feasting on the grape jelly you put out for orioles. They also like berries, so consider planting berry trees and bushes such as dogwood, winterberry and American beautyberry to attract catbirds to your backyard. Catbirds may seem endearing, but they are considered pests by gardeners who grow raspberries, cherries, grapes and strawberries. Check out 7 more backyard birds that eat berries.

Catbird Nesting Habits

A male catbird may help gather nesting materials, but the female solely builds the nest. It takes about five days to build the bulky, open-cup-shaped structure. Look for these nests hidden in dense shrubs or vines about 4 feet off the ground. Learn about the different kinds of bird nests and how to spot them.

Listen for a Catbird Call

Gray catbirds get their name for their call, a catlike mewing. Similar to mockingbirds and thrashers, they are also known to mimic the sounds of other birds. Male catbirds belt out these tunes from the tops of thickets or shrubs. Next, learn about the many sounds of hummingbirds.

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Lori Vanover
Lori Vanover is the senior digital editor for Birds & Blooms. She has a bachelor's degree in agricultural and environmental communications from the University of Illinois. Lori enjoys growing vegetables and flowers for pollinators in her backyard gardens. She also is an avid bird-watcher.