Index of Species Information

WILDLIFE SPECIES:  Dumetella carolinensis


WILDLIFE SPECIES: Dumetella carolinensis
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Sullivan, Janet. 1994. Dumetella carolinensis. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: []. Revisions: 18 July 2013: DeGraaf, Richard M.; Rudis, Deborah D. 2001 citation corrected to DeGraaf, Richard M.; Yamasaki, Mariko. 2001. ABBREVIATION : DUCA COMMON NAMES : gray catbird grey catbird common catbird northern catbird TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name of gray catbird is Dumetella carolinensis (L.). It is a member of the mimic-thrush family (Mimidae). There are no accepted subspecies [7,34]. ORDER : Passeriformes CLASS : Bird FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


WILDLIFE SPECIES: Dumetella carolinensis
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : The gray catbird breeds from southern British Columbia, southern Ontario, and Nova Scotia south to central New Mexico and northern Florida; west to northern and south-central Washington, south-central and eastern Oregon, north-central Utah, and central and northeastern Arizona.  Its winter range extends from north-central and eastern Texas, the central portions of the Gulf States, and Atlantic coastal lowlands from Long Island south to the Gulf-Caribbean slope of Central America [7]. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES10 White-red-jack pine FRES11 Spruce-fir FRES12 Longleaf-slash pine FRES13 Loblolly-shortleaf pine FRES14 Oak-pine FRES15 Oak-hickory FRES16 Oak-gum-cypress FRES17 Elm-ash-cottonwood FRES18 Maple-beech-birch FRES19 Aspen-birch FRES20 Douglas-fir FRES21 Ponderosa pine FRES22 Western white pine FRES26 Lodgepole pine FRES29 Sagebrush STATES :
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :     5  Columbia Plateau     6  Upper Basin and Range     8  Northern Rocky Mountains     9  Middle Rocky Mountains    10  Wyoming Basin    11  Southern Rocky Mountains    12  Colorado Plateau    13  Rocky Mountain Piedmont    14  Great Plains    15  Black Hills Uplift    16  Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :    K008  Lodgepole pine - subalpine forest    K013  Cedar - hemlock - pine forest    K022  Great Basin pine forest    K024  Juniper steppe woodland    K032  Transition between K031 and K037    K037  Mountain-mahogany - oak scrub    K038  Great Basin sagebrush    K039  Blackbrush    K040  Saltbush - greasewood    K094  Conifer bog    K095  Great Lakes pine forest    K098  Northern floodplain forest    K099  Maple - basswood forest    K100  Oak - hickory forest    K101  Elm - ash forest    K102  Beech - maple forest    K103  Mixed mesophytic forest    K104  Appalachian oak forest    K105  Mangrove    K106  Northern hardwoods    K110  Northeastern oak - pine forest    K111  Oak - hickory - pine forest    K112  Southern mixed forest    K113  Southern floodplain forest    K114  Pocosin    K115  Sand pine scrub    K116  Subtropical pine forest SAF COVER TYPES :     16  Aspen     17  Pin cherry     18  Paper birch     19  Gray birch - red maple     24  Hemlock - yellow birch     25  Sugar maple - beech - yellow birch     26  Sugar maple - basswood     27  Sugar maple     28  Black cherry - maple     39  Black ash - American elm - red maple     45  Pitch pine     60  Beech - sugar maple     61  River birch - sycamore     62  Silver maple - American elm     63  Cottonwood     65  Pin oak - sweetgum     69  Sand pine     70  Longleaf pine     73  Southern redcedar     75  Shortleaf pine     79  Virginia pine     80  Loblolly pine - shortleaf pine     81  Loblolly pine     83  Longleaf pine - slash pine     84  Slash pine     87  Sweetgum - yellow-poplar     88  Willow oak - water oak - diamondleaf oak     89  Live oak     91  Swamp chestnut oak - cherrybark oak     92  Sweetgum - willow oak     93  Sugarberry - American elm - green ash     94  Sycamore - sweetgum - American elm     95  Black willow     96  Overcup oak - water hickory     97  Atlantic white-cedar     98  Pond pine    105  Tropical hardwoods    108  Red maple    109  Hawthorn    105  Tropical hardwoods    106  Mangrove    111  South Florida slash pine    215  Western white pine    218  Lodgepole pine    238  Western juniper SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : No entry PLANT COMMUNITIES : The gray catbird occurs in a wide variety of plant communities. Physiognomy rather than cover type appears to be the dominant factor in habitat preference; forest edge is preferred to hedgerows in the open [18].  Riparian areas are heavily favored [6].  In the Southeast, the heaviest breeding densities occur in sapling-poletimber stages of elm (Ulmus spp.)-ash (Fraxinus spp.)-cottonwood (Populus spp.) types, and the highest winter densities occur in shrub-seedling stages of maritime live oak (Quercus virginiana) [11].  Breininger [4] reported the presence of wintering gray catbirds in Florida swale marshes.  In New England, the gray catbird is rare at high elevations [6].  In western North Dakota, gray catbirds forage and nest in cottonwood types [12]. In Saskatchewan, gray catbirds were observed in aspen (Populus spp.) with shrub understory [13].  In Oregon, primary gray catbird foraging use occurs in tall sagebrush (Artemisia spp.)/bunchgrass, squaw apple (Peraphyllum ramosissimum)/bunchgrass, curlleaf mountain-mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius var. ledifolius)/bunchgrass, curlleaf mountain-mahogany/pinegrass (Calamagrostis rubescens) and other brush communities.  Primary reproductive use occurs in quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides)/grass, quaking aspen/mountain big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata ssp. vaseyana)/bunchgrass, and riparian areas [16]. Plant species commonly used by gray catbirds include multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora), barberries (Berberis spp.), lilacs (Syringa spp.), mockorange (Philadelphus spp.), osage-orange (Maclura pomifera), and various conifers [7,25].


WILDLIFE SPECIES: Dumetella carolinensis
TIMING OF MAJOR LIFE HISTORY EVENTS : Breeding Season:  The gray catbird breeds from late April to mid-August, with the peak season occurring from mid-May to mid-June [11].  The nest is a ragged mass of sticks, weed stems, grasses, leaves, and twigs.  The cup may be lined with pine needles, rootlets, fine shreds of bark, and horsehair [25].  In New York, eggs were laid from May 5 to June 13 [6]. In Ontario, egg dates ranged from May 2 to August 18 [19].  The gray catbird raises two or more consecutive broods in one season [6]. Clutch Size:  The average clutch size is four, but ranges from three to five eggs [11]. Development:  Eggs are incubated for 12 to 15 days [2,6].  The female is usually the sole incubating parent and is fed by the male [2].  The young usually remain in the nest for 11 days; the nestling stage ranges from 9 to 15 days.  The gray catbird is sexually mature at 1 year [6]. Migration:  The southward migration of gray catbird begins early in the fall, soon after the young leave the nest [15].  During one fall study period as many as 725 gray catbirds were reported at Dauphin Island, Alabama in a single day [39].  In the spring, males arrive on nesting grounds prior to the females [25].  Gray catbirds were the second most frequently captured species in the spring in a study area on the Fort Morgan Peninsula, Alabama [39].  Banded birds usually return to the place of banding.  There is variation in the constancy of mating; some catbird pairs raise consecutive broods in the same season and remain paired in subsequent seasons.  Other pairs raise one brood and then find new mates, although the male appears to remain constant to a territory [2]. Maximum longevity is 10 years [25].  Average longevity is around 2.5 years [2]. PREFERRED HABITAT : The gray catbird uses dense thickets of shrubby edge habitat for both nesting and foraging.  Any area of dense shrubs, briars, or vines along woodland borders appears to be suitable [7].  The habitat niche breadth is fairly large, meaning that gray catbirds use a wide variety of foliage densities and shrub layers.  The gray catbird is also found in dry marsh edges, roadside shrubs, abandoned fields, and fencerows [7]. Sample gray catbird densities are as follows:  In New York, one nest per 8 acres (3.2 ha) (80 pairs per square mile [31/sq km]) was reported for mixed shrub-small tree stages in beech (Fagus spp.)-maple (Acer spp.)-hemlock (Tsuga spp.) forest [6].  In North Dakota, 40 pairs per square mile (15 per sq km) were observed in favorable habitat [22], and in Maryland, 80 males were counted for 100 acres (40 ha) in shrub swamp habitat [23].  In Iowa, there was a positive relationship between gray catbird density and sapling richness, tree size, and tree patchiness, and a negative relationship with tree density [21]. COVER REQUIREMENTS : The gray catbird uses dense, shrubby vegetation for all activities. Nests are usually constructed about 5 feet (1.5 m) [6] above the ground, with a range of 3 to 10 feet (1-3 m) above the ground in dense, leafy shrubs or vines [7].  In Iowa riparian habitat, 72 out of 97 nests were constructed in shrubs, 11 were found in deciduous saplings, and 14 in deciduous trees [21]. FOOD HABITS : The gray catbird is primarily a leaf-gleaner [36].  About half of the diet is insects; the fleshy fruits of woody shrubs constitute most of the remainder of the diet [7,15]. Animal foods include ants, beetles, crickets and grasshoppers, bugs, cankerworms and other smooth caterpillars, caterpillars of gypsy moth and brown-tailed moth, aphids, miscellaneous other insects, and spiders [15,25]. Plant foods (fruit) include blackberries (Rubus spp.), cherries (Prunus spp.) including chokecherry (P. virginiana), hollies (Ilex spp.), bayberries (Myrica spp.), greenbriers (Smilax spp.), poison-ivy (Toxicodendron spp.), buckthorns (Rhamnus spp.), tatarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica), Missouri gooseberry (Ribes missouriense), American elder (Sambucus canadensis), blueberries (Vaccinium spp.), baneberry (Actaea rubra), dogwoods (Cornus spp.), and buffaloberries (Shepherdia spp.) [14,15,17,29,36,37]. PREDATORS : Snakes are major predators on gray catbird nestlings, as are rats, foxes, and domestic cats.  Other nest molesters include common grackle (Quiscalus quiscula), brown thrasher (Toxostoma rufum), and northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis).  Adult catbirds are taken by northern harrier (Circus cyaneus), peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), and long-eared owl (Asio otus) [2].  Toland [26] listed a gray catbird as a nesting season prey item for a red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis). MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Gray catbirds were rated as tolerant of habitat alteration; they do not require a specific habitat and are able to make use of less-highly-preferred habitat, albeit at lower densities [21]. In Pennsylvania, gray catbirds were present in clearcut stands of aspens and oak-pine.  They were observed to use the edges of stands more often than interiors (defined as more than 83 feet [25 m] from the interface), and preferred older stands [30].  Nongame bird densities were censused in bigtooth aspen (Populus grandidentata)-quaking aspen-pitch pine (Pinus rigida), and in bear oak (Quercus ilicifolia)-dwarf chinkapin oak (Q. prinoides)/blueberry stands that were uncut, 50 percent clearcut, or 75 percent clearcut.  Length of time since treatment was 2, 6, or 12 years.  Gray catbirds were encountered more often than expected in 75 percent clearcut aspen stands and were not encountered in uncut stands of either aspens or oaks.  Within the 50 percent clearcut stands, gray catbirds were more common in 12-year-old stands of both aspens and oak-pine than in 2-year-old stands [32]. Stauffer and Best [21] made the following predictions about the effect of habitat alteration on gray catbird density: 1) conversion of woody vegetation to hayfield or pasture will eliminate      gray catbird 2) reduction of woody vegetation to narrow strips along streams will      reduce gray catbird density 3) partial removal of the canopy will increase gray catbird density 4) thinning of shrub and sapling layers will reduce gray catbird density. The authors were unable to make a prediction for the effect of partial canopy removal with shrub thinning, since the separate treatments have opposite effects [21]. Tall structures create a hazard to migrating gray catbirds because most migration occurs at night [25].  Structures listed as hazards include lighthouses and the Washington Monument [2]. Nest Parasitism:  Gray catbirds are infrequent hosts to brown-headed cowbirds.  Gray catbirds will eject eggs of other species that are found in the nest [25].  However, if a naive gray catbird is exposed to a brown-headed cowbird egg before her own eggs are laid, she will "learn" the cowbird egg, eject her own eggs, and rear the cowbird chick [38].


WILDLIFE SPECIES: Dumetella carolinensis
DIRECT FIRE EFFECTS ON ANIMALS : There was no information in the literature related to fire-caused mortality of gray catbirds.  Adult birds probably easily escape fire; nests and young are vulnerable to fire. HABITAT RELATED FIRE EFFECTS : In Florida, gray catbirds preferred unburned areas to recently burned coastal scrub and slash pine (Pinus elliottii) flatwoods.  Gray catbird density increased with postfire age, from 0.1 per acre (0.25/ha) on 1-year plots to 0.6 per acre (1.5/ha) on 10-year (or older) plots [5]. Also in Florida, a 20-year-old slash pine stand was prescribed burned with a moderate-severity fire in December, 1967.  Ground cover and dead grass litter were almost entirely consumed, most shrubs were defoliated and burned back, and small pines were scorched; the foliage of medium and large-sized trees was scarcely touched.  In the first 5 postfire months, there were slightly more gray catbirds in the unburned area than in the burned area.  Most of the gray catbirds observed in both burned and unburned areas were within 100 feet (30 m) of the burned/unburned boundary [8]. In general, fires that result in an increase in shrubby vegetation and vines will increase available habitat for gray catbirds.  Frequent fire that reduces the shrub layer will decrease available habitat for gray catbirds.  Where fire exclusion leads to a decrease in patchiness, edge, or shrubby vegetation, gray catbird habitat may decline. FIRE USE : In central Pennsylvania management of even-aged aspen stands for ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus) is also suitable for gray catbirds.  Management for ruffed grouse includes the creation of brushy, edge conditions that are favored by gray catbirds.  This management often includes the use of prescribed fire [31].


WILDLIFE SPECIES: Dumetella carolinensis
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