Gray Catbird

This morning – sunny and full of colorful and exuberant birdsong and activity – my favorite sighting was a shadowy, dark Gray Catbird, calling a raspy meew from a brushy area of privet and vines and weeds. It sat on a low, scraggly branch, a slender slate-gray bird with a sleek black cap, switching and spreading its long, expressive tail. Though Catbirds prefer this kind of habitat and often stay among the tangles of thickets like this, their behavior is active, bright and full of spicy personality, and always fun to watch. They don’t seem particularly shy, and aren’t too hard to find. Their raspy meew is easy to recognize, and their song, like a Northern Mockingbird’s, is made up in part of the mimicked songs of other birds, though quite different in character. It’s a quirky, creaky string of phrases that also may include other animal calls, whistles, chirps, gurgles, and other sounds.

Though it’s not nearly so fluent and musical as a Mockingbird’s performance, a Catbird’s rough and prickly song often seems to me to have a highly imaginative and individual quality.

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