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”:)
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!
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 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.