Bird Bio: Gray Catbird
By: Melissa Molzahn, KBO Education Specialist
The Gray Catbird, our featured bird for this issue, is in the Mimidae family. Like many in this family, it mimics calls of other birds. Their name is derived from one call they make that sounds like the mew of a cat. The Gray Catbird winters from the gulf states to Central America, although a small number can be found in New England. They breed in central British Columbia, eastern Canada, and the eastern United States, with additional populations in the central Rocky Mountains, central Arizona and northeast Oregon in the Blue Mountains. This year KBO banders captured, banded and released a Gray Catbird here in southern Oregon, one of several birds unusual to this area that were encountered this year (see page 1).
The Gray Catbird migrates from wintering to breeding grounds beginning in April, arriving in late May through early June. By September they will have left the breeding grounds to return to winter ranges. Their breeding range habitat is very different from that of their winter range. During the breeding season, Gray Catbirds prefer early successional habitat, and in Oregon they are very dependent on dense riparian areas. In their winter range, they seek forested areas. Insects and berries comprise the main components of their diet. In Oregon, they consume elderberry, black hawthorn, mayflies and grasshoppers.
As with many species, catbirds may collide with towers and other tall structures during migration, and at all times are vulnerable to automobiles;some southeast populations have declined. However, Oregon is currently experiencing a gradual expansion of breeding populations as more riparian habitats become protected by improved land management practices. If you live near a breeding population, you can help conserve and enjoy these birds by planting native shrubs and berry bushes for nesting and feeding and by keeping cats indoors.
Birds of Oregon, First edition 2003; edited by D.B. Marshall, M.G. Hunter, & A.L. Contreras; The Birds of North America, first edition 2005 edited by Drs. Alan Poole and Frank Gill; Birds to Help, 19 Sept. 2007 National Audubon Society, Inc. <http://www.audubonathome.org/birdstohelp/>.
Gray Catbird Photo by Jim Livaudais