By Rich Crete
Hey Bird Guy! Last week I had a bird at my feeder I hadn’t seen before. It was about the size of a Blue Jay, had a long tail and it was all grey. Any ideas?
-M.T. from Bloomingdale
I have a pretty good idea, M.T. I’m guessing you had one of our winter resident birds, the Grey Catbird. They are related to the Florida state bird, the Northern Mockingbird and the Georgia state bird, the Brown Thrasher. They are in the group called mimic thrushes since yes, they can imitate many sounds. Since Florida is one of their favorite places to spend winter (mine too), they are not going to show off their mimicking skills while here. They will save that for when they return to their breeding grounds to attract mates and mark territory. The ones here are far more relaxed and content to only make their cat-like mew sound, which if I’m not mistaken is their way of asking for directions to the nearest tiki bar.
If you get a chance to look a bit closer at the Catbird, you’ll notice it has a neat black cap. They also have a rust coloring under their tail. With only a quick glance they do appear totally grey.
If it is visiting your feeder, you likely have some dried fruit, shelled nuts or sunflower chips. These birds are predominantly berry and insect eaters. Like their mimic cousins, they don’t have the ability to crack open a seed from its shell. They do like to eat from feeders too, but only if you have pre-shelled goodies for them. Another treat for them you can put out is jelly. (But don’t put jelly in your tube feeder. Oops.Too late? Bummer.)
They will also frequent your bird bath, if it’s clean. Your bath is clean, isn’t it, M.T? Doesn’t have jelly in it? Clean baths are very important this time of year. Many of our wintering birds are here because they eat insects, so they may not come to your feeder, but they do need clean fresh water to drink and to bathe.
By the way, if you’d been good, Santa would have given you those new binoculars you asked for, and you’d have been able to see the cool black cap and the rust patch under the Catbird’s tail. But since he didn’t, I know where you can get a nice pair, M.T. It’s not too late. The Catbirds will be here until May.