Bird Database

Gray Catbird

(Dumetella carolinensis)

State of the Birds
At a Glance







Predation, Collisions, Habitat loss

Conservation Actions

Maintain a bird-friendly yard

Gray Catbird

(Dumetella carolinensis)

Gray Catbirds are ubiquitous in shrubby areas across New Hampshire except the higher elevations. They can be found at the edges of wetlands, power line corridors, brushy tangles, and suburban yards, and in these habitats their namesake mewing call can be heard from May to October. Increasing numbers are now even spending the winter, usually near the coast or along the major river valleys, and during this time they will sometimes show up at feeders to eat suet. The normal winter diet in the north is fruit, which is also important in summer and late fall as catbirds prepare to migrate.

Like their close relatives the mockingbirds and thrashers, catbirds are accomplished singers, and sometimes mimic other birds. Studies of catbirds hand-raised in captivity have shown that much of their singing is improvised rather than learned, and that each bird has a unique repertoire based partially on what it hears growing up and partially on what it invents as it goes. This helps explain why, to the human ear, catbirds all sound something alike while all also very different from one another. There are as many variations on their characteristically jumbled songs as there are catbirds.

For a species that’s adapted well to human landscapes, it’s somewhat surprising that populations in parts of the Northeast declined significantly between 1970 and 2020. Those in New Hampshire, Maine, and adjacent parts of Canada have leveled off or increased slightly since then, while those not too far to the south have shown more consistent growth throughout. It’s possible that reforestation is partially responsible for variation in trends, but generally the factors that influence catbird populations are not well known. Because they are common around people, some threats such as cars, building collisions, and cat predation affect catbirds more than many other species, but once again these don’t explain regional variation in trends.

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

Gray Catbird
Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count