How to Identify and Attract a Gray Catbird

Listen for the "mewing" call of a gray catbird in summer. These birds love to eat fruit, prefer dense thickets, and can mimic other birds.

What Does a Gray Catbird Look Like?

gray catbirdCourtesy Julie Halloran
Gray catbird
Gray catbirds are a common summer songbird in the eastern United States. 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.

  • Length: 8-1/2 inches
  • Wingspan: 11 inches
  • Distinctive Markings: Slate-gray body with a black cap and tail, rust-red feathers under tail
  • Scientific Name: Dumetella carolinensis
    Family: Mimic thrush

Learn about 15 common backyard birds you should know.

What Does a Gray Catbird Eat?

gray catbirdCourtesy David Fitzgibbons
Gray catbirds like to eat berries

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 them to your backyard. Catbirds may seem endearing, but they are considered pests by gardeners who grow raspberries, cherries, grapes and strawberries.

Gray catbird on watermelonCourtesy Keith Anderson

  • Diet: Insects and berries
  • Backyard Favorites: Grape jelly and bird baths

Gray Catbird Nest and Eggs

gray catbird nest and eggsCourtesy Beverly Derouen
Gray catbird nest and eggs in azalea bush

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.

  • Nest: Builds nest in a garden shrub or thickets near creeks or swamps
  • Eggs: Female usually lays four glossy teal eggs

Learn about the different kinds of bird nests and how to spot them.

Gray Catbird Call and Song

Roland Jordahl
Gray catbird

Listen to the gray catbird’s song.

Bird songs provided by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Gray catbirds get their name for their call, a catlike mewing. And don’t let a gray catbird fool you with its mimic calls. Similar to mockingbirds and thrashers, it can easily imitate the songs of other popular backyard birds. Male catbirds belt out these tunes from the tops of thickets or shrubs.

  • Voice: Alarm call is a catlike mewing; song is a mix of notes, may mimic other songbirds.

Range Map

Gray Catbird Bird Species

Range maps provided by Kaufman Field Guides, the official field guide of Birds & Blooms.

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Jill Staake
Jill lives in Tampa, Florida, and writes about gardening, butterflies, outdoor projects and birding. When she's not gardening, you'll find he reading, traveling and happily digging her toes into the sand on the beach.