Catbird vs Mockingbird: Key Differences

People have long appreciated the beautiful songs of birds. These birds are lovely to watch, their melodies are pleasing to the ears and brighten up any day. In this article, we will talk about two birds – Catbird vs Mockingbird.

Here’s a short video of Catbird vs Mockingbird

One that can make sounds like a cat and another that can mimic different birds’ calls. These clever “songbirds” are called catbirds and mockingbirds, respectively. Although they may look alike, these two birds’ lifestyles are very different.

Catbird vs Mockingbird: Coloration and Structure

Catbird vs Mockingbird: Coloration and Structure

The color pattern of Catbird-

Catbirds are predominantly dark slaty grey, with grayish-brown patches on the underside of the tail. Males usually have a black cap, while females have a gray cap. This coloration helps them to blend in with their surroundings and hide from predators.

Shape- A medium-sized, round fluffy body, long black tail, pointed and straight black bill. The feathers are soft and downy, making the Catbird appear somewhat shaggy.

The color pattern of Mockingbird-

Although a mockingbird looks like a catbird, if you look closely you can see the upper parts are greyish-brown, and the underparts are paler. The wings are black with white bars, and the tail is black with white outer feathers that look attractive in flight. They have two white patches on each wing which are often visible when they fly.

Shape- They are the size of a robin with a slender body and a long tail. Its wings are relatively short and its legs are long and slender. A mockingbird has a small round head, slender, long, and curved black bill.

Catbird vs Mockingbird: Size

Catbirds measure up to 21–24 cm, with a wingspan of 20–30 cm and a weight of 23.2–56.5 g.

Whereas, the mockingbird measures 21-26 cm, has a wingspan of 31-35 cm, and a weight of 45-58 grams.

Catbird vs Mockingbird: Life Span

When it comes to life expectancy, there is no clear winner between these two birds. Both species typically live between 5–10 years in the wild. While in captivity, catbirds have been known to live up to 12 years, while mockingbirds live up to 20 years. 

Catbird vs Mockingbird: Diet

Insects, fruits, and berries are the main diet of these birds, of which 50% are eaten by insects and 50% are eaten by fruits and berries. Nestlings are fed almost on insects.

They eat what they get in the wild and it usually depends on the season.

Eat insects, caterpillars, beetles, crickets, grasshoppers, worms, and other insects, especially in spring and summer. In the fall, as the weather cools and food becomes scarce, they switch to a diet of berries and fruits.

Catbird vs Mockingbird: Migration

The catbird starts the journey in Canada and the northern United States, where they spend the summer months raising their young. In late August or early September, they begin their southward migration, flying over 2,000 miles to reach their winter homes in Central and South America.

The Mockingbird breeds in the northern United States and southern Canada. In the fall, they begin their southward journey, flying nonstop for up to three days. They will spend the winter in the southern United States, Mexico, or even Central America before returning north in the spring.

Catbird vs Mockingbird: Nesting

Catbird egg size and color – 2.2 to 2.6 cm in length, 1-6 eggs in a clutch, greenish-blue in color.

Mockingbird egg size and color- 2 to 2.9 cm in length, 2-6 eggs in a clutch, eggs are light blue and are speckled with brown spots.

Both birds build nests out of twigs and leaves, but the catbird nest is usually smaller and more compact than the mockingbird. 

Catbird vs Mockingbird: Range and Habitat

Mockingbirds are found in the Southern United States, Mexico, and Central America, whereas the habitat of the Catbird is found in The Eastern United States and Southern Canada.

Instead of being diurnal, catbirds migrate at night. During the day you can find them foraging in treetops, collecting insects for babies, or feeding.

In winter, they gather in flocks of 10 to 15 for migration.

They communicate with each other by moving and flapping their heads and wings, as well as through calls and songs. Catbird got its name from its behaviors. When they are happy, they make a trilling sound that is similar to a cat’s purr. 

On the other hand, mockingbirds are mostly active during the day, but they may sing at night during the breeding season. When they see a predator, they will sometimes imitate the call of another bird species to throw the predator off their trail.

These birds are named for their ability to imitate the sounds of other birds and animals. 

Predators of Catbird and Mockingbird

Although catbirds are shy and gentle creatures, they have a surprising number of predators. Among the most common are snakes, rats, foxes, cats, and owls.

Despite their aggressive behavior towards other birds or animals, mockingbirds can sometimes be killed by hawks, owls, or snakes.

Most of their eggs and chicks are easy targets of blue jays, crows, squirrels, and cats.

Tips to attract Catbird and Mockingbird to your feeders 

  • The best way to attract catbirds and mockingbirds is to place their favorite food in the feeder. For birds that do not migrate during the winter season, you can keep pieces of suet, fruits, and water.
  • Catbirds like to forage in dense vegetation, so place your feeder near certain shrubs or trees. Mockingbirds, on the other hand, prefer open spaces, so a feeder in an open area of your yard is more likely to bring them in. 
  • Another approach is to plant native plants as it provides ample space to hide from predators, build nests and also provide a buffet of tasty insects for birds to enjoy.

A few native plants that will attract these beautiful birds to your yard include:

  • Virginia creeper
  • American Beautyberry
  • Yaupon holly
  • Piedmont azalea
  • Lastly, keep your feeder clean and fresh. Both birds are attracted to fresh food, so regularly cleaning their feeders and refilling the food will help them keep coming back.

Tips for protecting catbirds and mockingbirds from predators in your backyard.

There are many things we can do to keep these birds from becoming predatory food.

  • Planting shrubs and dense vegetation will help provide a hiding place for these birds. But sometimes dense vegetation may help to hide predators such as snakes, foxes, and cats. So keep grasses short and always keep checking them.
  • Fencing is another effective way to deter predators. A fence should be at least 4-6 feet high and made of wire mesh and at least 6 inches underground to prevent predators from going under the fence.
  • Avoid feeding stray animals and keep an eye out for signs of nesting. If you see a cat or snake in your yard, shoo it away immediately.
  • Eliminate potential nesting sites for snakes, such as piles of rocks or logs.
  • Setting up nesting boxes is a great way to give catbirds and mockingbirds a safe place to raise their babies. Be sure to place the box early in the spring so the birds have time to find it before making a nest.

Interesting facts about Catbird

  • Catbirds are known for their mimicry and can mimic the calls of other birds as well as sounds from their environment like car alarms or squeaky doors.
  • Males often make a “meow” sound to attract their mate.
  • They can sing over 100 different songs and are also known to learn new songs every year.
  • Catbirds are a member of the Mimidae family, a songbird known for their mimicry, which includes mockingbirds and thrashers.
  • Male birds use their black cap to indicate their desire to mate.
  • Catbirds are known for their unique nesting habits. Instead of building their nests, they often lay their eggs in the nests of other birds. This behavior is called “brood parasitism”.

Interesting facts about Mockingbird

  • Mockingbirds are the state bird of Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas.
  • They are also excellent singers, and their songs often last more than two minutes.
  • Despite their small size, they are known for their aggressive territorial behavior. They relentlessly attack anything they see as a threat to their territory, including people, other birds, and even larger animals such as hawks.
  •  Mockingbirds are monogamous, and will usually mate for life.

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