South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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Gray Catbird

Dumetella carolinensis

Length: 9 inches Wingspan: 12 inches Seasonality: Summer
ID Keys: All gray body, dark gray cap, black tail and bill.

Gray Catbird - Dumetella carolinensisThe Gray Catbird is named for the occasional cat-like mewing that the bird makes.  Gray Catbirds have a remarkably varied vocabulary, rarely repeating the same phrase as it sings a mix of melodic and grating noises.  They will attend feeders for a wide variety of items, some of which are rarely consumed by other birds attending feeders. 

Habitat: Prefers dense, low growth, mostly commonly along woodland edges and riparian areas.  Generally avoids unbroken forest.

Diet: Primarily insects and berries.  Will also occasionally feed on other fruit, and a very wide variety of items at feeders.

Behavior: Feeds on berries and fruit in bushes and trees.  When foraging for insects, many are caught on the ground, but they will also catch insects in the foliage of vegetation.  They are often found moving through dense underbrush, but will also sometimes forage out in the open.

Nesting: June and July.  The nest of a Gray Catbid is a large cup of twigs, grasses, leaves, weed stems, and other material, placed relatively close to the ground (3 to 10 feet) in a dense shrub or small dense tree.  The female usually lays 3 or 4 eggs, and she alone incubates them.  When the eggs hatch, both parents help to feed the young, who leave the nest after about 12 days.

Breeding Map: Breeding Bird Survey map

Song: Gray Catbird Song, also Gray Catbird Call

Migration: Summers throughout the eastern three-fourths of the United States.  Winters in the Southeastern United States and points south.

Similar Species: Northern Mockingbird

Conservation Status: Declining in some parts of the country, but overall populations are stable, and they are found over a wide geographic region.  The IUCN lists the Gray Catbird as a species of "Least Concern".

Feeders: Nuts, fruit, bread and other baked products, boiled potato, cheese, get the idea.  Will eat a very wide array of items at feeders.

Further Information: 1) Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Gray Catbird

2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - Gray Catbird"

3) Gray Catbird

Photo Information: May 27th, 2008 - Big Sioux Recreation Area near Brandon, South Dakota - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Gray Catbird photos.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Gray Catbird - Range map
South Dakota Status: Common summer resident throughout the state.