the “cat’s meow”

If you haven’t heard the Gray Catbird’s plaintive mew — well, you haven’t missed much.  It’s annoying in its repetitiveness, but really does sound like a cat being strangled.  I stumbled upon a pair of Catbirds determined to deter me from poking around in the bushes to find their nest (which I was sure was close by), and I have to say that their persistent mewing finally drove me away.

Male and female look alike and both can make the "cat-call".  Only the male sings his wonderful polyglot song of notes copied from other species.

Male and female look alike and both will make the “cat-call” (scroll down the linked page to “mew call”).  The male proclaims his territory by loudly singing a wonderful polyglot song of notes copied from other species.

First one bird, and then its mate joined in mewing loudly in my ears as I walked down the trail.  Their typical habit of hopping from branch to branch in a dense thicket meant they were obscured from my view of them, but I caught them peering at me every now and then, checking up, and mewing loudly.

One of the pair letting me know I'm getting too close to the nest.

One of the pair letting me know I’m getting too close to the nest.

Just a peek around the leaves to see if I am still there.

Just a peek around the leaves, the other bird checks to see if I am still there.

Either I was provoking them by staying around, or I was, in fact, getting too close to their nest, but their defense escalated from merely hopping through the shrubbery while calling to highly visible posturing with feather erection and much louder calls.

Higher intensity defense means greater visibility and louder and more frequent mew calls.  Now they are starting to sound more like Blue Jays.

Higher intensity defense means greater visibility and louder and more frequent mew calls. Now they are starting to sound more like Blue Jays.

This bird has progressed to being entirely out in the open, screeching, turning his head toward me to call. With crown and throat feathers erected, the bird does look a little menacing.

This bird has progressed to being entirely out in the open, screeching, turning his head toward me to call. With crown and throat feathers erected, the bird does look a little menacing.  

When I was 10 feet away from where I took this last shot, the mewing stopped.  I wonder if this defense works as well on other would-be predators.

7 thoughts on “the “cat’s meow”

  1. I remember a time when I was very young taking water to my dad in the field and I was delayed for quite a long time looking for the frightened cat I heard in the bushes. Dad had a good laugh when I told him I could only find grey birds!

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