New World catbirds are two monotypic genera from the mimid family (Mimidae) of the passeridan superfamily Muscicapoidea. Among the Mimidae, they represent independent basal lineages probably closer to the Caribbean thrasher and trembler assemblage than to the mockingbirds and Toxostoma thrashers:
Gray Catbird, Dumetella carolinensis
Black Catbird, Melanoptila glabrirostris
The Gray Catbird Dumetella carolinensis, also spelled grey catbird, is a medium-sized northern American perching bird of the mimid family. It is the only member of the "catbird" genus Dumetella. The name Dumetella is based upon the Latin term dūmus ("thorny thicket"; it thus means approximately "small thornbush-dweller" or "small bird of the thornbushes". It refers to the species' habit of singing when hidden in undergrowth. The specific name carolinensis is New Latin for "from the Carolinas".
The species was first described by Carl Linné in his 1766 edition of Systema naturae. His original name Muscicapa carolinensis reflected the belief, widespread at that time, that the Gray Catbird was some sort of Old World flycatcher (presumably due to its remarkably plain coloration, not similar to other mimids).
The genus name has a convoluted nomenclatorial history. The monotypic genus Galeoscoptes, proposed by Jean Cabanis in 1850, was widely used up to 1907. This name roughly means "capped mockingbird", from Latin galea "helmet" and Ancient Greek skóptein (σκώπτειν, "to scold" or "to mock"). But as it turned out, Dumetella was a technically acceptable senior synonym, even though the peculiar circumstances of its publishing left the identity of its author unsolved until 1989. As it turned out, the genus name was published by C.T. Wood in 1837. His description is somewhat eccentric, and was published under his pseudonym "S.D.W.". Wood misquotes his source—John Latham's 1783 General Synopsis of Birds—as calling the bird "Cat Thrush", probably because he knew the species under that name from George Shaw's General Zoology. Actually, Latham's name was "Cat Flycatcher", analogous to the scientific name of Linné.