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Gray Catbirds often skulk in dense thickets, but their rambling songs, with a mix of melodious and harsh and squeaky notes, make their presence obvious in spring and summer. Among the Gray Catbird's several calls is a drawn out mew that is the source of its common name.
The diet consists mainly of insects and other small arthropods (especially in early summer) and berries. Nestlings are fed almost entirely on insects, but more than half the annual adult diet may be plant material, especially in fall and winter.
Early in the breeding season the male sings almost constantly in the morning and evening and sometimes at night. Courtship may involve the male chasing the female, posturing and bowing with wings drooped and tail raised; the male may face away from the female to show off the patch of chestnut under his tail (present in both sexes).
The nest is typically constructed by the female in dense thickets or small trees, typically 1 to 3 m above the ground. It is a large, bulky cup of twigs, weeds, grass, and leaves and lined with rootlets and other fine materials. The 3 to 4 (sometimes 2 or 5, rarely 1 or 6) eggs are greenish blue, rarely with some red spots. They are incubated (by the female only) for 12 to 14 days. Both parents feed the nestlings. Nestlings leave the nest around 10 to 11 days after hatching. Two broods per year is typical. When Brown-headed Cowbirds lay eggs in a Gray Catbird nest, the cowbird eggs are usually recognized, punctured, and ejected by the adult catbirds.
Migration apparently occurs mainly at night. Birds breeding in the Northwest seem to migrate east before turning south in fall since they are rarely seen in the Southwest.
(Kaufman 1996; AOU 1998; Dunn and Alderfer 2011)