Foam Lake Birding No. 87

No. 87
It appears that we are finally going to get some sunny weather. It is a little late to do much good for farmers this year but perhaps it will help in some way next year. As difficult as this weather has been for humans, the luxuriant plant growth and abundant insect life has been a bonanza for birds of all stripes. Food, water, shelter and nesting sites abound. This year our yard has been particularly active with more birds and more species than usual.
In article No. 78 from Texas, I discussed a group of birds called mimids focussing on thrashers. Mimids are so called because they like to mimic sounds that they hear around them. In reality, only one mimid, the Mocking Bird, does so to any great extent. Another one, the Gray Catbird, will mimic other bird sounds occasionally but not often nor well.
There are four mimids that occur in Saskatchewan. Two, the Gray Catbird and Brown Thrasher, are common; one, the Sage Thrasher, is found in only one place in a sage flat near the American border south of the Cypress Hills; the Mockingbird, a very rare vagrant, can occur just about anywhere.
In this article I want to cover the only mimid that can be expected in our yards around here - the Gray Catbird or simply Catbird. It is an even dark grey overall with a black cap, chestnut under tail coverts and beady black eyes. In size, it ranges about midway between a sparrow and a Robin. In flight the long tailed body exhibits a slight sinuous motion (the body moves somewhat like a crawling worm) that usually only Cuckoos exhibit.
The easiest way to identify the bird even before it is seen is by its distress sound - a kitten like mewing after which the bird is named. This is its way of sounding an alarm that an intruder is nearby. As youngsters we knew we were near a nest when we heard the mewing sound. Incidentally, the nest is in thickets fairly low to the ground and the eggs are bright blue like a Robin's. When angry the Catbird scolds with a rather harsh squawking/screeching sound. Two years ago when I was picking pincherries in our yard, a catbird did not like what I was doing and proceeded to "chew me out" from only a metre or so away. About fifteen minutes later it gave up, thankfully, and left. During mating season, the male will sit on an exposed perch and sing a pleasant song quite similar to that of a Robin. I have heard this song since childhood, therefore, I do not believe the Catbird was mimicking a Robin.
This week's picture was taken this spring in our backyard. The bird has been around all spring warning, scolding and singing in our and our neighbours' yards. It must be nesting somewhere nearby.