Gray Catbird

Photo by Jean Chamberlain
May 7, 2013

What do we know about gray catbird song?


  • Improvises and invents (Kroodsma et al. 1997)
  • Syllables not in fixed sequences and seldom repeated consecutively (Thompson and Jane 1969 cited in Smith et al. 2020, Fletcher and Smith 1969 )
  • Mimic
  • Quiet song (Whittle 1923b)


  • Mew in chorus at sunrise and dusk (Smith et al. 2020)
  • Do not seem to share songs (Kroodsma 1997)


  • Rarely sing (Whittle 1923b, Harcus 1973 cited in Smith et al. 2020)
  • Known to duet (Whittle 1923b)

How and when is song acquired?

  • Since gray catbird song is largely created by improvising and invention, it is assumed that song is controlled by internal mechanisms (Kroodsma 1997).
  • They mimic other birds.

How can we facilitate learning?

  • House outside with singing adults of many species
  • Expose to variety of songs to facilitate large repertoire



Fletcher, L. E. and D. G. Smith. (1978). Some parameters of song important in conspecific recognition by Gray Catbirds. Auk 95:338-347.

Harcus, J. L. (1973). Song studies in the breeding biology of the Catbird, Dumetella carolinesis (Aves: Mimidae). Phd Thesis, Univ. of Toronto, Toronto.

Kroodsma, D. E., P. W. Houlihan, P. A. Fallon and J. A. Wells. (1997). Song development by grey catbirds. Animal Behaviour 54:457-464.

Smith, R. J., M. I. Hatch, D. A. Cimprich, and F. R. Moore (2020). Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.

Thompson, W.L. and Jane, P.L. (1969). An analysis of Catbird song. Jack Pine Warbler . 47: 115-125.

Whittle, H. G. (1923b). Recent experiences with nesting Catbirds. Auk 40:603-606.