Waiting for Catbirds

Gray catbird (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)
Gray catbird (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

I never thought it would come to this but I'm anxious to see a catbird.  Our unusually warm, sunny weather has fooled me into thinking the calendar is further along than it is.  So if it's May (it isn't!) I should have seen a catbird by now.

Gray catbirds leave Pittsburgh in the fall and migrate to Florida, Cuba and the Gulf coast of Central America.  They return behind the first tantalizing spring migrants - blue-gray gnatcatchers and Louisiana waterthrushes - but before the big push of warblers, thrushes and tanagers.  I am so ready for the Big Push that I want the catbirds to get here fast so the fun can begin.

Actually, I should be careful when I say I want to "see" a catbird.  Hearing one is just as good and is far more likely because catbirds spend their time in thickets.  If you pique their interest, however, they'll pop out on top of a bush.  That's probably how Marcy Cunkelman got this picture.

And, yes, they "meow."  Catbirds copy the songs of other birds in a jumble of unconnected raspy sounds.  The twist is that they meow periodically, not in a way that would fool a cat but in a way that catches our attention.

I listened for that sound this morning but no luck yet.  This year climate change has gotten out ahead of the catbirds.

April 27, 2008:  Just saw my first catbird today.  Let the fun begin!


(photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

4 thoughts on “Waiting for Catbirds

  1. I saw one in Aspinwall along Freeport Road in the business district on Sunday 4/30/08. There are a lot of dried weeds and debris along side of the railroad tracks. That’s where I saw it. ………Barb Simon

  2. For the past 2 years I’ve lived in my apartment there’s been a catbird (could be more than one) that sits outside my window and meows constantly. He/she sits on a limb in the tree very close to my balcony. This one doesn’t care much for hiding. It must like that much to want to visit. I have yet to hear or see one this year. I hope they come soon.

  3. I’m sorry..I wrote the wrong date. It was just last Sunday, 4/20/08, that I saw the catbird in Aspinwall. I really do love them, they are so saucy and cheerful. Once when I was camping at Pymatuning, there was a catbird in the thicket within 4 feet of our picnic table, where I was sitting. She kept hopping around in there and singing and tilting her head from side to side and looking at me. I was particularly exhausted and I felt like she was purposely trying to cheer me up. I loved her for it and have never forgotten that one little catbird, even though it’s been at least 10 years, maybe more……..Barb Simon

  4. For the past 4 years I have had catbirds in my back yard. They love to eat raisins. Every morning as soon as I open the blinds to my deck they fly to the banister and wait for me to fill their dish with raisins. They also hop along with me when I water my garden. Look forward to seeing them every year.

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