GREY CATBIRD – (Dumetella carolinensis)
The Grey catbird is part of the mockingbird family. It is mostly grey with a black cap and a reddish rump. Sexes are similar. It is around 23 cm (9 in.) long.
The Grey catbird’s English name refers to the bird’s call, an enough convincing ‘meow’ that you might want to search for a cat where the call comes from, to no avail of course. It also imitates songs of other birds, and mechanical sounds. A song may last several minutes and is not repeated, as opposed to the Northern mockingbird and the Brown trasher.
The Latin name ‘Dumetella’ refers to the habitat of the bird, thick thorny bushes, which is why it is more easily heard than seen. As opposed to many birds that perch at the top of a tree to sing, the grey catbird ‘hides’ in a dense shrub to do so. This is where they build their nest as well. This type of habitat often borders fields, which makes the bird vulnerable to agricultural expansion and might be contributing to its declining numbers in the Maritimes. Grey catbirds feed from berries and insects.
The grey catbird breeds on PEI but is uncommon. The Maritimes region is located at the northeast limit of its breeding range, which includes most of the southern part of Canada and the USA. It migrates along the coasts of southeast USA and the Caribbean for the winter.