any of several American or Australian birds having catlike cries, especially Dumetella carolinensis (gray catbird) of North America.
Contemporary Examples

There’s no question that Republicans are sitting in the catbird’s seat.
Barack Obama and the Democrats Need to Take a Stand for Jobs Michael Tomasky June 12, 2011

“Putin’s aim is to show that he is in the catbird seat, and there is nothing we can do about it,” this former officer said.
U.S. Spies Said No Russian Invasion of Ukraine—Putin Disagreed Eli Lake, Christopher Dickey February 28, 2014

You might have thought that with Borders shutting down, Barnes and Noble would be sitting in the catbird seat.
Why Is Barnes and Noble Getting Out of the Bookstore Business? Megan McArdle February 5, 2013

Historical Examples

A story showing how much the catbird knows and understands is of one in Iowa who had a nest in some vines over a porch.
The Children’s Book of Birds Olive Thorne Miller

Then Mr. catbird came out of the bush and apologized like the gentleman he was.
The Tale of Bobby Bobolink Arthur Scott Bailey

There is no whine of the panther, no whistle of the catbird, nor any invention of the devilish Mingoes, that can cheat me!
The Last of the Mohicans James Fenimore Cooper

He can mew like a cat, and it is for this reason that he is called “catbird.”
Birds Illustrated by Color Photography [May, 1897] Various

There is always the pleasure of variety and the unexpected about the catbird.
Birds Every Child Should Know Neltje Blanchan

Though she does not mew and scream as did the catbird, she is just as anxious, you may be sure.
The Animal World, A Book of Natural History Theodore Wood

If not, the first catbird he meets is the cleverest of the two.
The Last of the Mohicans James Fenimore Cooper

any of several North American songbirds of the family Mimidae (mockingbirds), esp Dumetella carolinensis, whose call resembles the mewing of a cat
any of several Australian bowerbirds of the genera Ailuroedus and Scenopoeetes, having a catlike call

1731, common name for the North American thrush (Dumetella Carolinensis), so called from its warning cry, which resembles that of a cat; from cat (n.) + bird (n.1). Catbird seat is a 19c. Dixieism, popularized by Brooklyn Dodgers baseball announcer Red Barber and by author James Thurber (1942).

“She must be a Dodger fan,” he had said. “Red Barber announces the Dodger games over the radio and he uses those expressions–picked ’em up down South.” Joey had gone on to explain one or two. “Tearing up the pea patch” meant going on a rampage; “sitting in the catbird seat” means sitting pretty, like a batter with three balls and no strikes on him. [James Thurber, “The Catbird Seat,” “The New Yorker,” Nov. 14, 1942]


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