Latest For the Birds column: Gray Catbirds’ time to shine

Photo by Chris Bosak A Gray Catbird perches on a thorny branch in Selleck's/Dunlap Woods in summer 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Gray Catbird perches on a thorny branch in Selleck’s/Dunlap Woods in summer 2014.

Here’s the latest For the Birds column. Thanks for supporting http://www.BirdsofNewEngland.com

It’s a rare summer that goes by without me writing a column about catbirds.

Aside from robins, they are perhaps the dominant songbird of a New England summer. At my new home, chipping sparrows may give them a run for their money, but gray catbirds are certainly a reliable daily sighting.

Throughout much of the year, I feel, the catbird is overlooked. Of course, they are migratory so we don’t even see them during the colder months. Therefore, it’s understandable that we don’t think too much about them in the winter. I have seen a few over the years on Christmas Bird Counts, but that’s pretty rare.

That leaves spring, summer and fall for us to enjoy the gray catbird. In the spring we are overwhelmed with the number of songbirds passing through. Also, the birds that nest in our area start that process in spring, so that’s another demand on our attention. The catbirds arrive in spring to little fanfare.

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Clearing out my 2014 photos, Take 5: Gray Catbird

Photo by Chris Bosak A Gray Catbird perches on a thorny branch in Selleck's/Dunlap Woods in summer 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Gray Catbird perches on a thorny branch in Selleck’s/Dunlap Woods in summer 2014.

Here’s my next photo in the series of 2014 photos that I never got around to looking at and posting.

I probably overlooked this photo because I have so many Gray Catbird photos. In the summer in southern New England, birds can sometimes be scarce as they are busy raising families and hiding from potential predators. Catbirds, however, always seem to be around. They aren’t always in the open, but they are more so than the other birds. Birders and nature photographers with itchy “clicking fingers” are thankful for the photo ops Gray Catbirds give us in the summer.

Gray Catbird and its red undertail coverts

Photo by Chris Bosak A Gray Catbird perches on a branch at Selleck's Woods in Darien, Conn., May 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Gray Catbird perches on a branch at Selleck’s Woods in Darien, Conn., May 2014.

The Gray Catbird is very aptly named because, well, it’s mostly gray and often sounds like a cat. I say mostly gray because it has a small black cap on its head and has rusty red undertail coverts. That red patch is not seen very often and many casual observers of birds probably don’t even know the Gray Catbird has that patch of red.

Undertail coverts are the area of a bird under the tail and behind the legs. The photo above shows this catbird’s patch of rusty red.

With the spring migration season starting to wind down, much of New England will be left with only its breeding birds to watch for a few months. Thankfully, the charismatic Gray Catbird is among them.

Click “continue reading” for a catbird’s closeup.

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