Saturday, June 9, 2012

Meow... Meeee-oooow!

I love birds, they are so fascinating in their diversity, complexity and their beauty. And this is one of my many favorites. It's called Dumetella carolinensis or better known as a Gray Catbird. 

A rather non-distinct little fellow and one that you may not have even noticed with it's slate gray plumage but you may have heard it before, for it is named for its unique cat-like meowing sound.

But that is not the only sound they make as Catbirds are relatives of mockingbirds and thrashers, and they share that group’s vocal abilities, although described as more raspy and less musical. The Catbird copies the sounds of other bird species and strings them together making their own song with some songs lasting up to 10 minutes!

Their summer breeding range spans across southern Canada, southward to N.E. Arizona and eastward to N. Florida. 
They spend their winters along the East Coast from southern Massachusetts to Florida, and from the Gulf Coast southward into Central America and the Caribbean.

Catbirds like to build their cup-like nest close to the ground in dense thickets, woodland edges, parks and residential areas, especially near a water source. 

They're ground foragers with their main food source being insects like ants, beetles, grasshoppers and caterpillars.  But when wild fruits are available they also eat them too such as holly berries, cherries, elderberries, poison ivy, bay, and blackberries.

They are sometimes garden pests, eating cultivated fruits such as raspberries, grapes and strawberries. And I know this first hand as I saw one fly out of my strawberry bed and upon closer inspection there were peck marks in the ripening berries! But alas, I can't be mad as it was my own fault, I should have had the netting over the berry bed already, which I didn't, but I do now! 

So now, the next time you think you hear the sound of a cat meowing outside think again... it may just be a Catbird! 


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