When a Yard Cat is OK

catbirdFeb2012

Outdoor Cats are always a hot button issue. So, when is an appropriate time to allow a mewing resident in the garden?  Well, when it is a Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis), of course!

These charcoal-colored birds with the darker Mohawk stripe on their head will draw your attention with their call.  Like mockingbirds they have a repertoire of sounds one of which sounds a little like a cat meowing.  They are distantly related to the mockingbird.

Here in Florida they are non-breeding winter residents. I guess that they like it really warm and must stay further south, so central Florida is merely a migration area, based on my observations.

While I lived in New York, they frequently visited and I was under the assumption that they were called catbirds because when my kitty and I were out for our daily trot around the property they would dive-bomb her, showing no fear.  My take was the common name indicated catbird because they attacked cats and the gray, well, just look at the photo for that reasoning.  So much for what I know, it seems it was the call after all.

They like to hide amid denses shrubbery

They like to hide amid denses shrubbery

I heard that familiar call the other day.  Too fast for a photo op, but I looked up from last year and found they flew through in February, so they are just about on target time-wise as last year. A second encounter took place just yesterday with two catbirds flying low to the ground when I walked down the drive. They have a little red and white markings showing under that rump as they flit by.  Hopefully they will stay just a bit longer so I can enjoy their presence.  Ahh, these snowbirds, only fleeting joy for some of us.

They breed in most of the eastern third of the United States, except for the Deep South.  They like dense shrubs for cover and nesting.  They eat insects and fruit and at this time of year seem particularly drawn to my wax myrtles.  They can be damaging to “cash crops”, so if you grow your own strawberries, raspberries and the like, you might want to put a net over them…the berries, not the birds…although that might work ;)  Since they seem to favor serviceberry, maybe try planting that as a distraction from your personal edibles.  Other possibilities include the usual berry producers, elderberry, holly and the like.

All in all it is pleasant to hear them and they are rather attractive, so plan your garden to encourage catbirds and you just might see the population grow.

 

Central Florida Native Plant Sale, April 5th and 6th

Central Florida Native Plant Sale, April 5th and 6th

 

© 2013, Loret T. Setters. All rights reserved. This article is the property of BeautifulWildlifeGarden.com We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Join the Wren Song Community

Wren Winter Singing crop

Free Exclusive Content and Member's Forum

Sign up for a free membership in the Wren Song Community and you'll have access to a lot more valuable information published exclusively for our members.

Meet other passionate wildlife gardeners from around the country. Share your successes. Learn from your failures. Discover the best resources to help you create welcoming habitat for wildlife in your gardens with native plants so that you will attract more birds, butterflies, native pollinators, and other wildlife to your garden.

Learn more about the Wren Song Community

Comments

    • says

      hmmm, not in zone 10 eh? and here I thought that they must be wintering further south than my zone 9b. I wonder where they hang out that I only see them for about two weeks in spring. This demands further research. I love a good mystery! thank!
      Loret recently posted..Mountains in Florida?

    • Kirsi says

      We’ve got them scouring through the saw palmettos here in south Martin County from December – March. They LOVE the birdbath!

      • says

        That’s about 100 or so miles south of me so I guess they start their journey north around Feb/March which is when I’ve seen them. I’ve got saw palmettos but I’ve mostly seen them in the wax myrtles which are close by. Come to think of it, I believe one “flushed” out of the palmettos the other day when the dog ran underneath. Thanks for stopping by and sharing to give me a little better understanding of these guys.

  1. says

    Loret, you wicked word-monger! You cannot believe how fast your title jolted me awake this morning, and got my fingers flying to “enter” on it. Well and truly laughing out loud now, and thanks for such a merry beginning to the day!

    • says

      Hi Donna!

      They did seem illusive which I why I didn’t get any pictures this week. I am going to try “pishing” next I see them. The Cornell website said that they might respond to you if you make a pishing sound. I’ve been practicing!

      pish pish pish….I sound like a water spout :)
      Loret recently posted..Mountains in Florida?

Trackbacks

  1. [...] 145. When a Yard Cat is OK: Outdoor Cats are always a hot button issue. So, when is an appropriate time to allow a mewing resident in the garden?  Well, when it is a Gray Catbird, of course! These charcoal-colored birds with the darker Mohawk stripe on their head will draw your attention with their call… ~Loret T. Setters [...]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Current ye@r *

CommentLuv badge