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Posts Tagged ‘catbird’

I’ve read that a Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) makes a distinctive cat-like mewing sound, but I don’t recall ever having heard a catbird make any sound whatsoever. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Gray Catbirds can also copy the sounds of other species and string them together to make their own song that can last as long as ten minutes.

Even without hearing its song, I was able to spot this Gray Catbird earlier this week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. As is most often the case with catbirds, this one was in thick vegetation, but I did manage to get a relatively clear shot of its head and body.

Gray Catbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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My bird books say that Gray Catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis), like this one that I spotted on Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, make catlike mewing sounds, which accounts for the name. When I initially heard this bird, it was making a variety of different sounds, none of which sounded like a cat, and I thought it was a Northern Mockingbird. It was only when I zoomed in and saw that the bird had less distinctive markings than those of a mockingbird that I realized that it was a different species. Catbirds do, however, belong to the same family Mimidae (also known as mimic thrushes) as Northern Mockingbirds and Brown Thrashers, like the one that I featured in a recent posting.

When I was growing up, I remember hearing the expression “sitting in the catbird seat” and I learned that it meant being in an enviable or advantageous position. I never really wondered, though, what this had to do with a catbird and only today did I search for the origins of the expression. According to the website phrases.org.uk, “Catbirds seek out the highest perches in trees to sing and display. The allusion to that is most likely to be the derivation of the term. It may also be the source of an earlier term with much the same meaning – ‘sitting pretty‘.”

Gray Catbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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