About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Frankenstein Bird Visits Wild Birds Unlimited Store

When I was working at the Wild Birds Unlimited store, I heard a Gray Catbird making its mewing call. I told a customer to listen for the catbird as we were walking out with her seed. She’d never heard of a “cat-bird”. The name does sound funny the first time you hear it and generates thoughts of a half cat, half bird creature. Of course after I said this the bird disappears, so I bring out a Birds of Michigan Field Guide to reassure her I wasn’t making up a story about a bird that sounds like a cat.

Gray Catbird Dumetella carolinensisOrder: PASSERIFORMES Family: Mockingbirds and Thrashers (Mimidae)

Description: A little smaller than a Robin, its body is uniformly dark gray with the exception of a chestnut brown patch under the tail and a black crown, tail, bill, eyes, and legs.

Behavior: The catbird has adapted well to the widespread urban and suburban habitats created by people and is often seen in neighborhood gardens. An occasional visitor to peanut, suet, or fruit feeders, the catbird forages mainly on the ground, gleaning insects from litter and low bushes and eats fallen berries during late summer and fall. It pokes with its bill, turning leaves and twigs to find the food underneath.

It often announces its presence by singing a series of musical whistles and catlike meows, interspersed with imitations of other birds' songs. It may start singing before dawn, while it is still dark, and can continue until after dusk, being one of the last birds to settle in for the night. A group of catbirds are collectively known as a "mewing" and a "seat" of catbirds.

General: In Michigan Gray Catbirds live in dense thickets of shrubs of woodlands, and are occasionally found in residential areas. They prefer areas without many conifer trees. Most catbirds winter in the tropics of Mexico and Central America where fruit is quite abundant. About 80% of the catbird's winter diet is composed of fruit.

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