Who can resist a bird that takes its name from its call: a distinctive, raspy-sounding “mew.” Say hello to the Gray Catbird.
The Catbird has quite a quirky personality and is a pleasure to watch and hear sing.
Its song is quite creative and similar to that of his cousin, the Northern Mockingbird.
The Catbird and Mockingbird both have a similar stylistic habit of sampling bits of other bird tunes in their songs.
The Catbird’s song is a long, irregular succession of musical and mechanical notes and phrases. Or what I call avian jazz.
Although the Catbird and Mockingbird sing similar types of songs, they are noticeably different from each other.
Catbird’s Color Pattern
The Catbird is smaller than the Mockingbird and darker with a deep gray color, black cap, and no white markings.
And if you look long enough, you’ll see a flash of rusty red feathers beneath its tail as it flits between low branches.
The Catbird is common throughout much of the U.S. and Southern Canada during the nesting season.
They’re a lot of fun to watch.
Our backyard Catbirds live on a schedule and get up early in the am, forage for food and then take a morning bird bath.
They disappear during the daytime while temps are at their hottest and then reappear just before dusk for another bite of food, a bit of birdsong and then a quick bird bath.
So what do you need to do to attract these quirky birds to your backyard?
Attracting Catbirds to Your Backyard
You draw them into your backyard by planting fruit-bearing trees and shrubs. In addition to a wide range of insect pests, the Catbird is particularly fond of fruiting Viburnum, Serviceberry (Amelanchier), Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) and Dogwood (Cornus sericea, C. alba, C. alternifolia, C. florida and C. kousa).
Gray Catbirds eat lots of fruit, so planting berry-producing thickets and shrubs like Wild Blackberry and Wild Grape vines will attract a Gray Catbird to your yard.
Catbirds Love Fruit
Wild Blackberry is an excellent choice because the plant produces thorny hedges which the Gray Catbird prefers for nesting.
We have wine raspberry bushes, and the Catbirds have made our yard their home and nest behind the thicket.
Knowing their love for fruit, we offer the Catbirds the green leafy part (calyx) of our strawberries, as well as halved oranges, and apples.
Catbirds may eat mealworms as well.
Avoid Pruning Overgrown Bushes
Catbirds avoid lying over open spaces and instead prefer to hop from one low shrub or tree to the next.
They nest in thickets 4′ or so off the ground. We recommend to keep your Catbirds happy, avoid pruning overgrown bushes until they leave your backyard for fall migration.
What might not seem perfect to us often makes an ideal home for your favorite backyard birds.