Richard and Diane Van Vleck Personal Pages
The Home Habitat

The Gray Catbird

Dumetella carolinensis
The gray catbird

The gray catbird is, by far, the most numerous of the mimic thrushes on our property. Catbirds only defend their immediate nesting territory, which allows continuous catbird territories throughout most of our trails. This results in a continual series of meowing and other unique catbird calls passing from one nesting pair to the next, alerting all creatures of my presence as I pass among them. So much for sneaking up on anything.

Gray catbirds usually nest in our smaller red cedars or in low thickets or shrubs, often along the creek. The bulky nests are usually well hidden. In 2006, the nest illustrated on this page was located within 12 feet of an active nest of the Eastern wood-pewee.  Observing the pewees required hiding from the catbirds in a blind. While a brown headed cowbird had laid an egg in the pewee nest, the catbird nest either was not parasitized or the catbird ejected the egg.

Gray catbird feeding youngMany people claim that the gray catbird robs the nests of other songbirds. I don't dispute this, but have never witnessed such an action.  In 2006, the pewees and catbirds didn't show the least interest in one another.  I've also observed the simultaneous nesting of a gray catbird and a robin in the same small red cedar tree. The nests were on opposite sides of the tree and the two species seemed to always approach from opposite directions.

Gray catbirds consume a great deal of fruit and even feed mulberries and blackberries to their nestlings.  Once, catbirds nested right in the middle of an elderberry patch, although that nesting wasn't synchronized with the ripening of the elderberries.
Gray catbirds feed berries to nestlings Gray catbirds hatching
Gray catbird nestlings A pair of gray catbirds near their nest site
Gray catbird Four gray catbird nestlings

2022 update - Return of the barn owls
2021 Chimney Swift tower success!!!
2020 Barn Swallow nesting
Barn swallow nest cups
2019 Barn Swallows and Black Rat Snakes

2018 - The Barnyard Balance of Nature Goes Awry
Black rat snakes vs barn swallows, Northern flickers, kestrels and others

2018 Purple Martin preference for clam shells
2017 - Return of the Monarchs!
2017 Purple Martin prey photos
2010 - 2016 Northern flicker nestings
2014 house wren gourd use
2014 - A dramatic loss of many types of insects
2019-2020 Purple Martin nesting
2014 barn owl nesting - prey study
A new barn swallow shelter for 2013
2010 barn owl nesting
2010 Update
2016-2017 Kestrel nestings
Starling traps
Using blinds in the home habitat
Providing perches for birds
Providing snags for wildlife
The ugly young maple
2001 - 2013 nest cams
Use of tomato cages as hunting perches by insectivorous song birds
Vultures, beetles and the resurrection of life

Species of interest in our yard - photos and articles
barn owl American kestrel purple martin barn swallow Eastern bluebird
tufted titmouse Eastern phoebe yellow shafted flicker tree swallow chimney swift
house wren big brown bat Carolina wren brown thrasher catbird
cedar waxwing Northern mockingbird
Yellow warbler Acadian flycatcher

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© 2013, American Artifacts and Richard Van Vleck, Taneytown, Maryland.