Birds - Catbird
( Originally Published 1904 )
(Galeoscoptes carolinensis) Mocking-bird family
Called also : BLACK-CAPPED THRUSH
Length—9 inches. An inch shorter than the robin.
Male and Female—Dark slate above; below somewhat paler; top of head black. Distinct chestnut patch under the tail, which is black; feet and bill black also. Wings short, more than two inches shorter than the tail.
Range—British provinces to Mexico; west to Rocky Mountains, rarely to Pacific coast. Winters in Southern States, Central America, and Cuba.
Migrations—May. November. Common summer resident.
Our familiar catbird, of all the feathered tribe, presents the most contrary characteristics, and is therefore held in varied estimation—loved, admired, ridiculed, abused. He is the veriest "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde " of birds. Exquisitely proportioned, with, finely poised black head and satin-gray coat, which he bathes most carefully and prunes and prinks by the hour, he appears from his toilet a Beau Brummell, an aristocratic-looking, even dandified neighbor. Suddenly, as if shot, he drops head and tail and assumes the most hang-dog air, without the least sign of self-respect; then crouches and lengthens into a roll, head forward and tail straightened, till he looks like a little, short gray snake, lank and limp. Anon, with a jerk and a sprint, every muscle tense, tail erect, eyes snapping, he darts into the air intent upon some well-planned mischief. It is impossible to describe his various attitudes or moods. In song and call he presents the same opposite characteristics. How such a bird, exquisite in style, can demean himself to utter such harsh, altogether hateful catcalls and squawks as have given the bird his common name, is a wonder when in the next moment his throat swells and be-ginning phut-phut-coquillicot, he gives forth a long glorious song, only second to that of the wood thrush in melody. He is a jester, a caricaturist, a mocking-bird.
The catbird's nest is like a veritable scrap-basket, loosely woven of coarse twigs, bits of newspaper, scraps, and rags, till this rough exterior is softly lined and made fit to receive the four to six pretty dark green-blue eggs to be laid therein.
As a fruit thief harsh epithets are showered upon the friendly, confiding little creature at our doors; but surely his depredations may be pardoned, for he is industrious at all times and unusually adroit in catching insects, especially in the moth stage.