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Number of species: 79

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Gray Catbird - Dumetella carolinensis

Gray Catbird has a partial preformative molt and absent to limited prealternate molts that are restricted to some body plumage at most. Although multiple characteristics can be used to determine age in summer and fall, many become less reliable by spring and some individuals may need to be considered M-FCU (AHY). Sex can generally be determined only by brood patch / cloacal protuberance during the breeding season.

Quick tips

  • Examine the greater coverts - on FCF/FCU (HY/SY) birds, some to most of the innermost ones (occasionally all) are contrastingly gray and longer than the retained more brownish juvenile feathers, whereas on DCB/DCU (AHY/ASY) birds, the greater coverts and primary coverts are all uniformly gray.
  • In fall, check the iris - on FCF (HY) birds it is grayish to reddish-brown, while on DCB (AHY) birds it is maroon; some FCU (SY) birds may still have a recognizably dull iris by spring, but generally this feature becomes less reliable over the course of winter.
  • Check the upper mandible lining - on FCF/FCU (HY/SY) birds it is mostly pale, while on DCB/DCU (AHY/ASY) birds it is mostly black.
  • Check the undertail coverts - many FCF (HY/SY) birds retain gray, loosely-textured juvenile feathers, but beware that some of them may have uniformly rusty undertail coverts like DCB/DCU (AHY/ASY) birds.
  • Examine the tail - FCF/FCU (HY/SY) birds have uniformly narrow and tapered rectrices, or contrastingly fresh central rectrices, whereas DCB/DCU (AHY/ASY) individuals tend to have uniformly more broad and rounded rectrices.

Species account prepared by McGill Bird Observatory (2016). Last updated by Marcel Gahbauer (Mar 2022)

The molt categories displayed below may be filtered by month.

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Click on any image below to bring up the side-by-side comparison tool.

Individuals not in molt

FCJ - (HY: June - August)
Dull gray with some brownish tones; undertail coverts loose and with little to no rufous; iris grayish; mouth lining whitish
U
Thumbnail - MG2-1891-91615-Dumetella_carolinensis_AOU_7_52-3133.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1891-91615-Dumetella_carolinensis_AOU_7_52-3131.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1891-91615-Dumetella_carolinensis_AOU_7_52-3132.jpg
FCF - (HY: July - December; SY January - April)
Iris grayish in fall, becoming reddish-brown by spring; mouth lining largely pale; subtle molt limit between primary and greater coverts, among greater coverts, or between greater and median coverts, with inner feathers gray and fresher, contrasting with the older and slightly lighter outer feathers; undertail coverts loose and usually with substantial gray
U
Thumbnail - MG2-2421-71124-Dumetella_carolinensis_AOU_7_52-3118.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2421-71124-Dumetella_carolinensis_AOU_7_52-3116.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2421-71124-Dumetella_carolinensis_AOU_7_52-3117.jpg
FCU - (SY: March - September)
Iris reddish-brown to dark red; mouth lining ranging from pale to mottled dark; molt limit between primary and greater coverts, among greater coverts, or between greater and median coverts, with inner feathers gray and fresher, contrasting with the older and browner outer feathers
U
Thumbnail - MG2-1891-91457-Dumetella_carolinensis_AOU_7_52-3127.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1891-91457-Dumetella_carolinensis_AOU_7_52-3125.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1891-91457-Dumetella_carolinensis_AOU_7_52-3126.jpg
DCB - (AHY: July - December; ASY January - April)
Iris dark red; mouth lining mostly dark; primary coverts, primaries, and greater coverts uniformly gray; undertail coverts mostly to entirely rusty
U
Thumbnail - MG2-2231-00851-Dumetella_carolinensis_AOU_7_52-3113.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2231-00851-Dumetella_carolinensis_AOU_7_52-3111.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2231-00851-Dumetella_carolinensis_AOU_7_52-3112.jpg
DCU - (ASY: March - September)
Iris dark red; mouth lining mostly dark; primary coverts, primaries, and greater coverts uniformly gray; undertail coverts mostly to entirely rusty
U
Thumbnail - MG2-2421-70687-Dumetella_carolinensis_AOU_7_52-3122.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2421-70687-Dumetella_carolinensis_AOU_7_52-3120.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2421-70687-Dumetella_carolinensis_AOU_7_52-3121.jpg

Individuals in active molt

FPJ - (HY: June - August)
Similar to FCJ; some natal down remaining and/or juvenile flight feathers still growing in
No images available yet
FPF - (HY: July - October)
Median coverts and up to all greater coverts being replaced, as well as occasionally one or two terials and central rectrices
No images available yet
FPA - (SY: February - May)
Some body plumage being replaced
No images available yet
SPB - (SY: July - September)
Flight feathers being replaced, with retained juvenile primaries, secondaries, and/or primary coverts generally brownish and quite worn
No images available yet
DPB - (AHY: July - September)
Flight feathers being replaced, with retained primaries, secondaries, and/or primary coverts either distinctly adult (generally grayish, less worn) or intermediate
No images available yet
DPA - (ASY: February - May)
Some body plumage being replaced
No images available yet

Applicable unknown plumage/age classes

Molt classes Age Months Key traits
M-FPF / UPU (FPF, SPB, DPB) U July - September Undergoing preformative or prebasic molt, but cycle is not reliably distinguishable
M-FCF / UCU (FCF, SCB, DCB) U/AHY July - April In formative or basic plumage (molt completed), but cycle is not reliably distinguishable
M-FPA / UPA (FPA, DPA) AHY February - May Undergoing prealternate molt, but cycle is not reliably distinguishable
M-FCU / UCU (FCU, DCU) AHY March - September In formative, basic, or alternate plumage (molt completed), but cycle and plumage are not reliably distinguishable

Number of species: 79

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