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Maybe I’m the last birder in the world to NOT know the call of the Catbird. Or what a Catbird looks like. Or that they are supposedly pretty common. Now I know! I really and truly thought there was a cat behind my fence, where small trees, vines and a few Hackberry (Celtis laevigata) trees are growing. This Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) was the first one I had ever seen. He was very elusive, hopping around in the branches – I felt lucky to get this photo. I almost fell out of my chair when I heard him “mew” like a cat! I found this video on YouTube, which shows a Catbird singing his heart out. (The video also catches a few “mews”:)

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

I rarely post pictures of birds on fences, but this time, I’m going to make an exception and share these. I am just so excited to have seen and heard this really cool bird!

Catbird on fence

In this picture you can just barely see the hint of the reddish-brown feathers under his rump.

I found a fun entry for the Catbird in my antique bird field guide:


When I read the comments next to “Song,” I smiled. “A medley like that of the Mockingbird; sometimes pleasing, sometimes not.” 1

This old field guide that I just referenced, has charmed me so much that I’ve been looking for more! I found an old book featuring James Audubon’s artwork – and I immediately picked up on the fact that his drawings are not like the usual fare. I suppose I should have been more familiar with Audubon before my 4th year of birding, but I’m delighted to become more acquainted with his work now. Here is his depiction of the Gray Catbird:

Audubon's Gray Catbird

Audubon’s drawing shows the reddish-brown feathers under the rump, on a pair of Catbirds happily feasting on berries. 2 As I flipped through my new-old book, I saw a quality in Audubon’s drawings that I had not seen before – LIFE! And even some death – his depictions of birds are more like a painted picture from a moment in time. I was given a biography of Audubon several years ago for Christmas, and I’ve never made time to read it. [giant sigh] I’m making time to read Thoreau’s Walden right now, but Audubon will be next!

I’ll leave you with the last photo I snapped of my very own backyard Catbird. He looked straight at me and my big ‘ol camera, and melted back into the thicket. 🙂

Catbird looking at me

  1. Bird Guide, Part 2: Land Birds East of the Rockies, From Parrots to Bluebirds, ©1909 by Chas. K. Reed, written by Chester A. Reed
  2. © 1937 The MacMillan Company

7 Responses to “Backyard Catbird Fools Me!”

  • Delightful post. I have heard this bird out my window several times but have yet to see him. I always shake my head when someone tells me how common a bird species is when it is still on my ‘never seen’ list. I like your reading choices…if there were only more time!

  • Thanks, Vickie. I know, reading a book for fun is such a luxury!

  • Jane Lovedahl:

    What a stunningly beautiful set of images, sounds, and references. . . everytime I check your site, I learn so many new and interesting things about the natural world. Thank you so much for all you do and share with us!

  • […] We proudly bestow upon the Birder’s Lounge the Suckered by a Mimid Award for the post Backyard Catbird Fools Me.  Have no fear, Amber, you are hardly alone in that […]

  • Hi Amber. Excellent post on a bird that would be a lifer for me if I ever have time to do some birding outside of California 😉

    Thanks for sharing your great captures (who cares if they’re on a fence) and the field guide pics are super too. I also appreciate the video which allowed me to hear the beautiful calls myself. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I also like the Northern Mockingbird calls. After all, how many times to you get to hear so many different songs from one bird?


  • Jane, thanks so much. It is really gratifying to know that others enjoy learning about nature as much as I do. Thank YOU for visiting.

    Hi Larry! Between you and me, in California and Texas, we have quite an area to cover just in our own home states. I’ll be visiting the Ozark mountains in Arkansas next month – I’m so excited!

  • Allan Ingram:

    This little bird was hopping around on my front lawn and I thought it was a Black Phoebe. Then I noticed the rusty brown under the base of the tail and how it acted similar to a mockingbird. I thought is was injured as it seemed to favor one leg over the other as it hopped. It flew off and later returned hopping around and favoring the oposite leg. This is in La Mesa (San Diego), California, not far from man-made Anthony’s Lake.

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