The Catbird Came Back

Catbirds sound as if they should be some kind of mythical creature – part cat, part bird – like centaurs or griffins.

Gray Catbird
Gray Catbird

However, Gray Catbirds are actually another one of those migratory birds that arrive from Central America to spend summers in our garden.

Gray Catbirds have a black cap and a reddish brown patch on their rump.
Gray Catbirds have a black cap and a reddish brown patch on their rump.

They compensate for their relatively drab coloring with vocal talents. At times they really do sound like mewing cats. Part of the same family as mockingbirds, they will also mimic the songs of other birds.

Most oddly, they will sometimes sing in a way that sounds as if they are accompanying themselves with a broken accordion. Here’s a link to recordings of Catbird calls and songs.

Gray Catbirds are not colorful, but they are kind of cute.
Gray Catbirds are not colorful, but they are kind of cute.

Gray Catbirds like shrubs and thickets, but they do visit our feeders to eat jelly and safflower seeds. Their normal foods consist mostly of fruit and insects.

Do you have Gray Catbirds visiting your garden?

41 Comments on “The Catbird Came Back

  1. I adored my catbird visitor a couple of weeks ago. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one and he/she was obviously migrating through Texas. I do know how much they love fruit though–that little scamp certainly helped himself to my blackberries!

  2. I liked hearing what they sound like! And now that I know what they look like I will be on the lookout for them! To be honest I have never heard of them before! Wishing you a wonderful weekend Jason! Nicole

  3. Yes. They nest in our garden every year. It is such fun to watch them building their nest and attending their young. They are very territorial. I do enjoy their song.

  4. I will have to keep my eyes open for this cutie. Cornell’s map shows it here in summer, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it.

  5. Nice. Didn’t know that catbirds even entered the Chicago area.

  6. I saw them in my Chapel Hill garden, but not here in the Charlotte area. Will keep my eye out, but your seeing them probably means that have already passed through.

    • According to the Cornell website, they stay for the summer in western North Carolina, but just migrate through the eastern part of the state.

  7. Yes, catbirds and mockingbirds are reliable sights here. I read somewhere (Peterson’s??) long ago that the easy way to tell the mockingbird song from the catbird’s is that a mockingbird repeats a song phrase three times, but a catbird doesn’t repeat.

  8. Yes, it is the first time they discovered the jelly in my garden! I see them often on birding adventures, but this year I have one that will not leave the oriole feeder.

  9. The little cap on his head is Very Cute. Loved these photos! I followed the link and am pretty certain I have heard those sounds and maybe misinterpreted some to be mockingbirds. Next time I will look more closely. The mew really DOES sound a bit like a cat which I guess must have inspired the common name.

      • I had to look up Red to see and here’s what I found: “Sittin’ in the catbird seat” – used when a player or team was performing exceptionally well. This expression was the title of a well-known story by James Thurber. According to a character in Thurber’s story, the expression came from Red Barber, but according to Barber’s daughter, her father did not begin using the expression until after he had read the story.

  10. What a fascinating little bird! I do like that blackish cap….how interesting that they are related to mockingbirds….another bird that fascinates me!xxx

  11. Great photos and I really like their song – but you’re right, there is a definite ‘broken accordion’ undertone to parts of it. And that call, well that’s just amazing!

  12. I am playing catch-up this week! I am so glad you put this post in about the cat bird. My husband and I enjoy sitting in the garden and they provide entertainment:-) They have returned here too!. I read they chatter at night + that is something unique I have never known-heard them the other night:-) crazy!

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