Thursday, October 14, 2010
Extant Theropod Appreciation #2: The Gray Catbird
Photo by Kevin Morrison, via flickr. This bird stopped on a cruise ship while migrating over the Gulf of Mexico.
One day four or five years ago, my wife and I were doing one of our occasional landscaping projects on the meager scrap of land which was ours to work as condominium owners. It was an all-day project - building a small walkway of limestone that would make walking along the slope into the sinkhole behind the condo easier. As I built the retaining wall that held it up, a small gray songbird made a circuit between the roof of the condo, a small maple tree in the common area adjacent to the building, and spots unseen. Every so often it would stop at the roof, fly to the maple tree, sing or call, and fly away. I'd never seen it before, but I was surprised by how much it sounded like a Mockingbird, another bird I got to know since moving to southern Indiana. Its other call, a feline-sounding mew, helped me identify it as a Gray Catbird. While its range covers my hometown in northwest Indiana, I never saw one until moving south.
Since then, it's become my favorite local bird. The house we bought two years ago is blessed with a sheltered backyard bordered by silver and sugar maple, pine, sassafras, mulberry, dogwood, redbud, a hemlock, and a redcedar, making for a perfect hangout for catbirds, which have an affinity for mixed growth areas. A mimid like the mockingbird and the Brown Thrasher, the catbird is a gregarious visitor. Its coloration is beautiful in its simplicity: slate gray with a black cap and rufous bit under the tail.
If you're wondering just how canny its call's resemblance to a feline could be, close your eyes after clicking play on the video below.
Pretty good imitation, huh? Heck of a good bird.