May 10, 2011

Gray catbird - two in the bush

Found in the “mimid” family with the Mockingbird and Brown thrasher, the Gray catbird is a chattery and quarrelsome bird at home in a low, dense tangle. Found around New England in backyards just beyond the fence line and wherever there is a deep hedgerow. Catbirds get their “cat” from the whiney meowing they make but also have an amazing repertoire of “chats, creeks, whoops and pissts”. Unlike the Mockingbird who replicates the songs of other birds, cats, car alarms, and mechanical noises in changing sets of three to five the catbird sings a garbled song in a loud and distinctive voice. Watch for these long tailed birds foraging in the leaves, darting out of the bush to sing from a tree branch, or scolding the neighborhood cat from a fence post. Both male and female catbirds are grey all over though on closer inspection they have a black crown and surprising rufous coloration under their tails. Catbirds have returned from a winter in Mexico and Florida to build stick nests, and raise their young in wood lots and backyard brambles across New England.


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is an educator, bird watcher, and writer fascinated by the intersections of place, people, nature, and culture. He works for Mass Audubon and lives in the heart of Massachusetts. For questions or comments please contact: alexanderjosephdunn@gmail.com

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