Gray Catbird

Hey guys, welcome back. Today’s bird is a favorite of mine, the gray catbird. Now if you’ve been reading for a while, then you know that as a general rule, I’ve never been big on mnemonics when it comes to birds’ songs, but with the catbird I do have one that I often repeat back to the catbirds when I hear them: “Harry!” Ok, so they don’t always sound like that, and honestly, I might be one of the only ones that hears it. I remember as a kid hearing them in my backyard and my mom always saying how it sounded like “Harry!” So it just kind of stuck with me. In truth they are called catbirds because they supposedly sound like a cat mewing. Personally I don’t think they sound anything like any cat I’ve ever met, but there you go.

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Gray Catbird showing a bit of the rusty color under his tail, East Hampton, NY

A common bird in the spring and summer in the US west of the Rockies, the gray catbird spends its winters along the Gulf Coast and the Caribbean with some living along the Atlantic Coast year round. Catbirds are at first glance a uniformly grey bird with no distinguishing field marks, but they do have a little color. First, they have a darker, sometimes distinctly black cap. Second, they have a patch of rusty brown feathers under the base of their tails. Who knew?

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Gray catbird, Gateway Arch, St. Louis, MO

The gray catbird is in the mimic family along with Mockingbirds and Thrashers, and as such, can (and often do) mimic other sounds to create a long repertoire of songs. Unlike the northern mockingbird, but like many thrashers, they prefer dense thickets near the ground, and very often you’ll hear them well before you spot them. Hmmm, that kind of sounds like next week’s bird, the Wood Thrush! Come back next time to learn a bit about them! See you all then!

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