Luigi, the Gray Catbird

How Luigi Got His Name

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Luigi, the Gray Catbird, is a bird celebrity at IntoBirds, and it warms our hearts that so many fans love Luigi.

But here’s a secret. Luigi isn’t just one catbird. It’s the name we give all catbirds.

When we’re birdwatching or hiking and encounter a catbird, we remark, “there’s a Luigi.” But, of course, it’s a term of endearment we use for all catbirds, so you might wonder, why the name Luigi?

Luigi is a term of affection for my Grandfather. No, he wasn’t named Luigi, but he had a backyard catbird he called Luigi.

I don’t remember when my Grandfather, Grampzie, as I called him, first met his Luigi the Gray Catbird. But Luigi and his avian friends shared a backyard bond with Grampzie for many years.

Grampzie was born in Sicily, and his father enjoyed farming, so his yard was filled with fruit-bearing trees, like peaches, pears, strawberries, and mulberries. The same fruits that many songbirds, especially catbirds, enjoy eating. Grampzie’s backyard was a tropical paradise for Luigi and his friends.

What Luigi the Gray Catbird Eats

A catbird’s diet consists mainly of insects, fruits, and berries, and they indulge in grape jelly set out for Baltimore Orioles.

Every Sunday, as is customary in most Italian families, our small flock gathers for a family meal. Italian family meals are like endless holiday celebrations with unlimited food and many leftovers. We like sharing the meal with our neighbors, regardless of their species.

So when Grampzie says he wants to bring a plate of spaghetti to our “neighbor,” my Grandmother is happy to fix a plate, slathering the spaghetti with extra sauce, cheese, meatballs, and bread to provide a feast for our neighbor.

“You don’t have to put meatballs or cheese with it,” Grampzie says. My Grandmother asks, “Who doesn’t like meatballs and cheese with their pasta?”

If only my Grandmother knew how spot-on she is with her commentary because Grampzie isn’t talking about a person.

“Trust me, he doesn’t want meatballs or cheese,” he says with a big grin.

A Feast Fitting for Luigi the Gray Catbird

My Grandmother obliges Grampzie’s wishes and never thinks to ask who the plate is for or where they live on the street. Instead, she’s happy to share her Sunday meal with the neighbors.

She finishes making the plate, sprinkling a hearty slathering of sauce on the pasta, and starts wrapping the dish in Saran Wrap.

“You don’t need to wrap it,” Grampzie says.

“What do you mean? You can’t take this to someone without a wrap on it. Something might fall in the food,” my Grandmother says. “Trust me, this guy doesn’t need sauce, meatballs or Saran Wrap. He eats it right off the plate.”

No meatballs. No cheese. No Saran Wrap. Our neighbor is so intriguing!

And with that, Grampzie takes the plate and heads out the door, returning an hour later with a clean plate.

“Our neighbor must be quite hungry,” my Grandmother remarks, admiring the empty plate. “It’s so clean I don’t have to wash it,” she jokes. She’s happy that she has a very hungry neighbor that loves her cooking.

luigi the gray catbird and friend
Soon after Luigi appears, a second catbird is not far behind

Luigi Our Avian Neighbor

The following Sunday, the same thing happens with the plate of spaghetti, so my Grandmother asks the name of Grampzie’s new hungry friend, that seems to love her pasta.

Grampzie replies, “Luigi.”

My Grandmother suggested that Luigi join us for Sunday dinner since he enjoys her cooking if he doesn’t have anywhere else to eat. So we’re sad to hear Grampzie say Luigi can’t join us.

So we all wonder why Luigi can eat the plate of food, but he can’t join us for dinner.

Rather than keep everyone in suspense, Grampzie grabs the pasta dish and tells us to watch from the patio as he takes the plate and sits on the bench under the fruit trees. And within a few minutes, Luigi joins him on the bench, eating the pasta.

It’s one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen. Luigi wasn’t afraid of Grampzie, and he slurped up the pasta like they were long worms and lapped up the bits of tomato in the sauce. Of course, the other herbs, like basil and oregano, are a bonus for Luigi.

And when Luigi is done eating, he becomes a backyard Pavarotti and serenades Grampzie with a jazzy song.

grampzie and luigi the gray catbird
Grampzie and Luigi the Gray Catbird shared the perfect friendship

A Purrfect Friendship

Before long, two other catbirds descend from the trees. Grampzie enjoys the catbirds’ quirky personalities, hearing them make their catlike mew calls and seeing the look on their faces as if he can understand “catbird.”

All the catbirds leave the yard with a red mustache around their beaks from the pasta sauce. Then a few American Robins stop by and clean up the leftovers, and the plate is clean.

After seeing the birds eating on the dinner plate, my Grandmother suggests we feed the birds with paper plates.

And that’s how it goes over the years. My Grandfather brings a plate of Sunday pasta outside to share with the birds. And why not? They’re our neighbors too!

So we carry on the tradition by calling all Gray Catbirds Luigi in Grampzie’s memory to celebrate his incredible bond with his backyard friends.


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