Gray Catbird singing in a Stand of Willows in the Wasatch Mountains

/, Gray Catbirds, Little Emigration Canyon, Morgan County, Utah/Gray Catbird singing in a Stand of Willows in the Wasatch Mountains

Gray Catbird singing in a stand of willowsGray Catbird singing in a stand of willows – Nikon D500, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 320, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

Gray Catbirds are related to mockingbirds and thrashers and are in the family Mimidae and all of them are noted for their vocalizations and their ability to mimic a wide variety of bird songs and calls and human made sounds. Have you ever heard the sound of a car alarm coming from a thicket? It might just be a catbird making all that noise.

Catbirds have a call that sounds like a kitten or a cat mewing and that sound has fooled people into thinking that there is an abandoned kitten in a thicket when it is really just a slaty gray bird with a black cap and tail and a rufous patch under its tail. Gray Catbirds got their common name from their call.

Male Gray Catbirds can sing up a storm and can sing for as long as 10 minutes or more if they aren’t interrupted. Females do sing but they sing softer and less frequently.

Two days ago while up in the Wasatch Mountains I heard a bird singing in a stand of willows next to East Canyon Creek and for a few seconds the catbird was up on top and in plain view but as soon as it noticed the vehicle it dove down into the willows. The catbird kept on singing though which made it easier for me to relocate it and even though it was partially hidden I decided to take a few images of it as it sang.

I know this image is a departure from my normal photographic style but I liked it anyway because this photo shows how I often see these birds… nearly hidden from my view. They like to be in thickets, dense shrubs and tangles of vines during all seasons of the year which makes them difficult to see and photograph.

I’m always happy when I get a photograph of this skulking mimic.

Life is good.



  1. Elephants Child June 2, 2017 at 1:36 pm

    I do love listening to their calls. Thank you.
    We have a few skulking mimics of our own. And I delight in them too.

  2. Utahbooklover June 2, 2017 at 11:26 am

    I was unfamiliar with this bird, and am impressed with the cat-like calls and the interesting, disjointed song. Thanks!

  3. Patty Chadwick June 2, 2017 at 10:30 am

    I’ve been going nuts trying to figure out what bird is singing such a varied, melodic song…realize from listening to the second of those tapes, that it’s a catbird….thanks!!!

  4. Patty Chadwick June 2, 2017 at 10:20 am

    We used to have a tangle of wild grape vines at the edge of our property by the road. Every so often, someone would just drop off a cat or kitten there, expecting us to take it in as a barn cat…can’t tell you how many poor little mewing “kittens” my sisters and I searched for only to finally discover that the “kitten” was actually a catbird…

  5. Bob mcphersons June 2, 2017 at 7:35 am

    Beautiful photo, MiA.

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