A Summer Resident – in Winter?!

A bright sky and blanket of snow lured me out for a walk this afternoon. Abundant animal tracks and traces didn’t lead me to animals, but all was not lost. I found the persistent fruit of Japanese Barberry and, more importantly, had an unusual bird sighting – a Catbird!

JapBarberry29Nov13#028Ec5x7ps

Japanese Barberry, an exotic shrub that has escaped from cultivation and is considered to be invasive in some regions

Catbirds (the Gray Catbird, Dumetella carolinensis) are very common summer residents, nesting, feeding and singing in the thickets and brushy habitats typical of abandoned farmland, fencerows and ecotones. In winter, there are resident birds along the coast, but most migrate to the southern U.S. and Central America. When I returned from my winter walk, there was a Catbird in the Star Magnolia tree in the yard, a few feet from a bird feeder. It appeared to be healthy, but a bit confused. Catbirds are secretive by nature, but this individual was uncharacteristically tolerant of my presence, allowing me to savor the moment. Until today, I had never seen a Catbird in Central New York this late in the year!

Catbird29Nov13#038E2c5x7

Gray Catbird 29Nov2013

Insects and the soft mast of woody plants (fruits like the barberry in the first image) are staples in the Catbird diet. There is a good crop of persistent fruit on several species of shrubs this year, so perhaps this bird has decided to hunker down in the thickets, rely on those foods and brave the elements. Some Robins do this, so why not a Catbird?!

Photos by NB Hunter. ©  All Rights Reserved.

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