Catbirds are great insect-devouring members of the Dirty Dozen. Just be careful when your fruit is ripening. You will swear the neighborhood boys did a night raid on you.

No one can mistake the presence a catbird when he or she hears its distinctive catlike “mew” coming from a nearby tree or shrub. Until it bursts into a babble of mimicked birdcalls, and territorial calls that sounds like a rusty gate, it is easily mistaken for a cat.

Frequenters of suburban yards and gardens, catbirds seek out areas with lots of bushes and shrubs that provide cover from predators and, hopefully, juicy berries to feed on. In nature they like the margins of woods, brush piles, tangled vines and scrubby plantings in open spaces. They are numerous throughout a large portion of the US, especially in the northern half of the country in the summer where they breed. Although they typically migrate south when cold is expected, they can be encouraged to overwinter in some northern areas where there is excellent shelter and dependable food supplies.

Recognizing Catbirds

Catbirds are basically a soft, dark gray marked by a very dark cap on their heads and russet areas on their flanks under their tails. Saucy and active, they are slightly smaller than robins at 8 1/2 to 9 1/4 inches long and a good bit slimmer. They hold their long tails upright in the manner of wrens, flicking them nervously at times. Their slender bills help them eat fruit, their favorite foods.

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