Wild Birds Unlimited – Omaha, NE

July 28, 2014

In the Catbird’s Seat

Filed under: Birds,Catbird — wbuomaha @ 12:04 pm
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Gray Catbird - more contrast
If you have an area of thick brushy undergrowth or a patch of dense shrubs, listen closely. If you hear a symphony of musical—and sometimes not so musical–sounds coming from the foliage, you may be hosting Gray Catbirds. One of its many calls is a catlike mewing, which is responsible for its name.

The catbird’s gray color, with a dark ‘cap’ on its head and dark eyes, give it the perfect camouflage for darting in and out of in the shadowy growth it calls home. But its undertail is a rich rusty brown, seldom seen unless you watch closely for it.

Catbirds eat mostly insects and berries. Only here in spring and summer, catbirds are migratory. They winter in the southern United States or the tropics, where fruit and insects are plentiful. Sometimes you can lure them to your birdfeeders with raisins or currents that have been soaked in water to plump them up. Or they will take mealworms placed in the vicinity of their thicket.
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Water, especially moving water, is attractive to catbirds. They often nest along or near streams. If brushy habitat is nearby, they will often visit backyard ponds or other moving water features.

Although both sexes help build the nest, construction is left mostly to the female over a period of five to six days. Breeding season is May through August, with a pair generally having two broods per year. The average clutch size is three to four eggs, incubated solely by the female. Both parents feed the nestlings a diet made up almost exclusively of insects. The young are grown and ready to migrate when fall rolls around.

Next time you pass the undergrowth at the edge of deciduous woods or a dense thicket of bushes, especially one filled with berries, watch and listen carefully. You may hear before you see the catbird, perched on a branch, looking back at you.

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