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)