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Cats in the Garden!!

How the Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) Got Its Name.
Gray Catbird, by John James Audubon, watercolor, accession number 1863.17.128
© Collection of The New-York Historical Society

It's not looks that earned the Catbird its name -- plain slate gray with a black cap -- but its love of shrubbery and the catlike mewing sound it makes.

Diana Wells in her new book, 100 Birds & How They Got Their Names, quotes Alexander Wilson who compared the sound to "some vagrant orphan kitten ... bewildered among the briars."1

Quiet your heart. It's a grownup bird.

Found throughout the Great Plains up to the Northwest; East of the Mississippi to the Gulf and Atlantic, Catbirds are considered generally common. (They're rarely seen, however, in the Southwest.) Most winter in the Southern United States or the Tropics.

The male has a patch of chestnut under his tail that he sometimes shows off during courtship. The female alone incubates their eggs -- two broods a season -- and both parents feed the nestlings.

Keep your real cats indoors.

1. Diana Wells. 100 Birds & How They Got Their Names (Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2002), page 148.

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