Gray Catbird Mating, Nesting, and Feeding Habits

The Gray Catbird is in the family of Mimidae which includes Mockingbirds and Thrashers.

Well known by bird watchers for their habit of mimicking sounds of other animals and bird species.

One 4 1/2 minute song included 170 distinct phrases.

gray catbird

The cat-like mewing call is generally an alarm call. Informing others that a predator or danger exsist for the birds.

Fairly inquisitve, this bird will pop out of the thick brush if it hears you approaching. Once satisfied, the bird will quickly dart back into cover and settle down.

After a time you'll notice the bird will continue going about his business with you around.

Both male and female give the "meeow" call although it really isn't a good imitation of a cat and you're unlikely to be fooled.

What They Look Like

Catbirds are 8 to 9 1/2 inches long. Mainly gray, darkest on wings and tail. Look for a black cap and a rust or cinnamon colored patch under the tail.

Catbird Meow Call and Song Call

Press the play button to hear the Catbird sound and call.

Mating - Courtship Habits and Behaviors

A monogamous bird. Pairs are usually bonded at the beginning of the season.

Gray catbirds have a complex courtship behavior that involves both vocalizations and physical displays.

During courtship, males will perch in a prominent location and sing a series of melodious songs to attract a mate.

These songs consist of various notes, phrases, and trills, and are often repeated in a pattern.

Watch the male when around a female as he raises his head up or down while fluffing out his body feathers to intice her to be his mate.

During the breeding season the males will continually chase other males from his territory. Often they'll chase other species of birds away.

Gray Catbirds have been known to pierce the eggs and destroy nestling of other species of birds.

Once a pair bond is formed nest building follows.

Catbird Nesting Habits

Adult Catbird Foraging on Berries

Breeding or egg laying and nesting season begins in late April and may run into June depending on how far South or North they are nesting.

The female builds most of the nest. The male will help with nest construction, but usually adds very little.

The nest is cup shaped, made of twigs, leaves, grasses and grapevine bark, lined with rootlets, pine needles, and horsehair.

The nest is generally located in a shrub, thick vine, or small tree about 2 to 10 feet above the ground.

The female lays 2 to 6 dark blue-green eggs that will be incubated by the female only. Incubation last about 12 to 15 days.

The young will leave the nest within 10 to 13 days after hatching and both adults will continue to feed up to 12 days.

Gray Catbird Nesting Stats
Eggs 2 - 6
Incubation 12 - 15 days
Nestling Phase 10 - 13 days
Broods 1 - 3

Nest are not used for second broods or from year to year. If Brown-headed Cowbirds lay eggs in the nest the Catbirds will reject and eject that egg.

They will return to the same area year to year if successful broods are raised. If unsuccessful, territory is abandoned by that pair.

Feeding Habits - What they Eat

The diet of Gray Catbirds consist of insects, spiders, and small fruits. Catbirds eat a lot of berries.

As a mater of fact, berries make up as much as 50 percent of their diet.

Primarily forages on the ground and in low foliage but will also search in treetops.

Catbirds search for food on the ground by tossing leaf and debris quickly causing insects to scurry, snatching them up before they get away.

Baby Catbird Chirps to be Fed

The way I get them to the feeder is providing Grape Jelly in a feeder we place for Orioles. Check it out here: Fruit Feeder. Another option is to place Suet in a suet feeder

Migration of Catbirds

Catbirds vacate their summer range to winter in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.

Small but increasing numbers remain in the North through the winter.

You're most likely to see them along the New England coast and on South.

If you see Catbirds in your backyard during winter, try placing suet, raisins, and blueberries out to keep them well fed.


Predators include the common ones such as Crows, Hawks, Owls, Snakes, Raccoons and Cats.