The expression may originate in regards to the gray catbird (Dumetella carolinensis), as it was in use in the 19th century in the southern United States. It was featured in the 1942 short story "The Catbird Seat" by James Thurber, and popularized by baseball commentator Red Barber, and often referred to baseball. The expression according to James Thurber comes from the observation of the catbird (an Australian bird) of the family ptilonorhynchidae. Some of the male birds will assemble several hundred colored rocks or shells, arranging them in a remarkable artistic display, in order to build a "seat" atop which his mate will eventually be enthroned.
- Thurber, J.G., The Catbird Seat, in New Yorker Magazine, November 14, 1942
- Catbird, Online Etymological Dictionary, Douglas Harper. Accessed 17 September 2006