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.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Wandering Catbirds

I had an unusual visitor today. I had to search my field guide and discovered it was a Gray Catbird!- Lansing, MI
Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Thank you for the update from your yard. From July until late August most birds have completed nesting (with a couple exceptions like the American Goldfinches) and birds begin to roam. Territories are relaxed and birds begin to wander widely to look for food to help go through their molt. Feathers are made of more than 90% protein, primarily keratins, so every molting bird needs extra proteins to grow strong feathers for proper flight and effective insulation.

In summer, Gray Catbirds eat mainly ants, beetles, grasshoppers, midges, caterpillars, and moths. They also eat native fruits from trees and shrubs such as dogwood, winterberry, and serviceberry. You may see catbirds at the jelly and fruit feeders you put out for the orioles and also at the suet, nut and mealworm feeders.

Gray Catbirds are only with us in mid-Michigan during the spring and summer to nest. They begin their nocturnal migration in flocks of about 10 to 15 birds to wintering grounds in August. During the winter they live in the extreme southeastern United States, along the east coast of Mexico, and in the Caribbean Islands. Their migration, especially those individuals that cross the Gulf of Mexico, requires so much energy that they will have to increase their mass to the upper limit of what flight allows to complete the journey.

The Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) get its name from the catty mew calls it produces. Their genus name Dumetella is based upon the Latin term dūmus (small thornbush-dweller) which refers to the species' habit of singing when hidden in undergrowth. Listen for the distinctive mew call of the Gray Catbird, or for its imitation of several species during a long, seemingly improvised series of notes at the top of a dense, tangled thickets.

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