Say meow to the gray catbird

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The gray catbird is native to North America. Its range extends across most of the U.S. except for several far western states. Adults are about the size of a cowbird.

The gray catbird is a migratory bird that will spend most of the year in Southeast Missouri, but by the end of November it will have left for the warmer confines of land in and around the Gulf of Mexico.

Last week I watched this particular gray catbird picking individual seeds of a dogwood tree and swallowing the seeds whole. Gray catbirds will eat fruits such as wild grapes and arthropods such as millipedes. This bird can often be heard scratching in the dry leaves under thick brush where it is looking for food.

A catbird's cry sounds a lot like a cat's meow, which accounts for the bird's name. Your attempt to mimic the catbird call may draw it out of the brush or trees close enough for you to see it. If it likes your "meow" it will probably answer you, but do not be surprised if it does not come very close. These are shy birds with excellent eyesight.

Adult male and female gray catbirds look alike.

Through the Woods is a weekly photo column by Aaron Horrell. Find this column at to order a reprint of the photo. Find more work by him at the Painted Wren Gallery.

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