While not particularly flashy, the gray catbird is distinguished for its ability to adapt to just about any habitat that provides adequate food and shelter. It is one of the Top 10 most banded species in the 50-year history of the banding station.
The catbird is particularly capable of surviving not only in the face of urban development, but almost in spite of it. Unlike other species that depend on only one type of prey or habitat, the catbird consumes a variety of insects and berries on the ground or in the trees. Its Latin name Dumatella means “thornbush resident,” as it can make its home in any available tangle of brush—on the forest edge or right in the middle of a park. It is one of few species that destroys eggs of other birds found in its nest—a problem in areas of fragmented forest—providing a greater chance of survival for its own young. These adaptations help it to survive habitat disturbances which negatively affect other less adaptable species.
The bird’s familiar name comes from its distinctive “mew” call. A member of the mockingbird family, the catbird can mimic not only other birds, but also tree frogs and mechanical sounds. The tail-up, wings-down pose, showing off the rusty undertail, is characteristic of this bird.
Photo: Hubert Steed