Saturday, October 12, 2013

Bird to look for: Gray Catbird

We are now entering what is arguably the peak week of the year for an interesting species, the Gray Catbird.

Gray Catbirds are a smooth medium gray all over, without streaks or mottling.  The only exceptions are a black cap, and rusty undertail coverts.  They are about the same shape as a mockingbird (and are in the same family), but a touch smaller.  They tend to hold their body horizontally like a mocker as well.

Gray Catbirds usually occur in dense undergrowth, although they will work their way upward into trees where fruit (usually berries) are available.

Although small numbers remain in south Louisiana in winter, and a very few nest here in summer, they are far more numerous during their April and October peaks of migratory passage.  They are one of our most common migrants in both spring and fall, and it is not uncommon to see a half dozen or more gathered in one suitable area during passage.  They depart from here across the Gulf of Mexico, to winter in Middle America.

Catbirds commonly turn up in yards with ample vegetation within the city, so be on the lookout in your back yard.  A front is forecast for late next week, which may bring a wave of them in- but there are some around right now.

They are pretty responsive to swishing, so do not be surprised if one pops into view when you are swishing up other birds.  They often call when they approach, and commonly give several different vocalizations in this context.  One is the class mew that gives the bird its name; it sounds so very catlike that you will recognize the similarity immediately.

Good birding,


for a copy of Birding Made Easy- New Orleans, email me at, or look for it at the Garden District or Maple Street Book Shops.

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