by Dottie Head, Director of Communications
This September, Georgia Audubon will observe the fifth annual Georgia Grows Native for Birds Month, a month-long celebration of the inherent connection between Georgia’s native plants and birds. This year’s celebration will include a variety of workshops and events designed to help Georgians learn more about gardening for birds and other wildlife using native plants.
“When it comes to the types of plants that are best for Georgia’s birds, native plants are far better than non-native plants,” says Adam Betuel, Georgia Audubon director of conservation. “As urbanization increases and natural habitats disappear, it is more important than ever that we intentionally include more native plants in our landscapes. Because native trees and shrubs evolved with local wildlife, they harbor more insects and yield more nutritious berries and fruits than non-native varieties. From adding native plants in pots on your balcony to reducing turf grass and planting native trees and shrubs in your yard, planting natives can have far reaching benefits for birds, pollinators, and other wildlife. It’s something each of us can do in our own landscapes to aid bird conservation efforts.”
During Georgia Grows Native for Birds Month, Georgia Audubon will host a number of virtual and in-person events to educate the public about the importance of native plants to birds, including:
Fall Native Plant Sale in Atlanta and Athens
Accepting Orders: August 30 to September 26 with pickup dates on October 1 and 2 in Atlanta and Athens.
Georgia Audubon and Oconee Rivers Audubon, in Athens, will collaborate on a fall native plant sale. We will partner with Beech Hollow Wildlife Farms to bring you a large selection of bird-friendly, native plants for your landscape. Visit the plant sale website to view available plants or to place your order beginning August 30.
Georgia Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary Tour
Saturday, September 10
9:00 AM to 2:00 PM
Tickets: $20 for Georgia Audubon members / $30 for non-members
Georgia Audubon will host an in-person Wildlife Sanctuary Tour on Saturday, September 10, from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM. This year's tour will feature five properties in DeKalb and Fulton counties. Join us to gain inspiration on how you can transform your yard into a sanctuary for birds and other wildlife. Each featured property has been certified by Georgia Audubon as a Wildlife Sanctuary because it provides four essential criteria for attracting birds and other wildlife: food sources (at least 50% native plants), nesting sites, shelter, and water sources.
Free Webinar: Reflections from a Bird Bath: What Game Cameras Can Teach Us About Fruit Eating Birds
Thursday, September 15, at 7:00 PM via Zoom
Join ecologist Jim Ferrari in this webinar as he describes his seven-year study of seed deposition to the bird bath in his Macon, Georgia, yard. Jim collects seeds, records the visiting birds, and (for the past year) has trained a game camera on his bird bath to learn more about seed dispersal by birds. Themes covered in the talk include seasonality of fruit production, native vs. non-native plants, which bird species have the broadest fruit diet, and more.
Jim Ferrari is a professor of biology and department chair for biology at Wesleyan College, in Macon. His research interests include the ecology of fruit-eating birds, seasonal patterns of bird diversity, vulture migration and flocking behavior, leaf litter dispersal and effects of leaf decomposition on soil nitrogen cycling rates, and forest ecology
Free Webinar: Creating a Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary
Tuesday, September 20, at 7:00 PM via Zoom
Learn how to promote the conservation and well-being of birds and other wildlife in your green space. We will cover everything from food, water, and shelter to keeping wildlife safe. Whether you are an experienced gardener and birder or just getting started, there will be something for you to learn. Get connected to resources that can help you on your journey, and learn how you can get your space certified as a Georgia Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary.
Plant ID Workshop, with Gabe Andrle
Thursday, September 22, from 5:30 to 7:00 PM
Location: Henderson Park, Tucker
Cost: $20 for Georgia Audubon members / $30 for non-members
Join Georgia Audubon's Habitat Program Manager, Gabe Andrle, for a beginner plant identification workshop where you will learn how to identify some of the most common native and non-native plant species of the metro Atlanta area. No experience is necessary. You will leave equipped with the basics for starting to understand what plants shape the many amazing ecosystems that birds rely on for survival.
Georgia Grows Native for Birds Month Closing Celebration: Birds and the Undiscovered World, with Kenn Kaufman
Sunday, September 25, from 3:00 to 5:30 PM
Monday Night Garage, 933 Lee Street, SW, Atlanta, 30310
Cost: $35 for Georgia Audubon Members / $45 for non-members.
Join us for the Georgia Grows Native for Birds Month Closing Celebration featuring Kenn Kaufman, author, conservatist, and birding legend, as he gives the keynote address on Birds and the Undiscovered World.
The advances of modern science, and the reality of instant global communication, may lead us to assume that everything in our world is well known. But this is an illusion: in fact, the unknown is all around us, beginning right outside our doors. A close look at the world of birds and nature is enough to remind us that we are still surrounded by fascinating mysteries. Kenn Kaufman will draw on the adventures of his own life to talk about the unknown realms of nature, the potential for discovery, and the power of personal observation to rekindle our sense of wonder.
About the speaker: Kenn Kaufman became fascinated with birds by the age of six. As a professional tour guide, he led birding tour groups to all seven continents, but today he works as an artist, writer, and editor. He has written 13 books about birds and nature, including Kingbird Highway, Lives of North American Birds, and his own series of nature guides, Kaufman Field Guides, now published by HarperCollins. His most recent book is A Season on the Wind: Inside the World of Spring Migration, published in 2019. Kenn is a Fellow of the American Ornithological Society, a Field Editor for the National Audubon Society, and an official "birding expert" for Birds & Blooms magazine.
Eagle Eye Book Shop will be setting up a pop-up store at this event so that guests may purchase copies of Kenn Kaufman's books for autographing. Learn more or register on our website.
Georgia Audubon is building places where birds and people thrive. We create bird-friendly communities through conservation, education, and community engagement.
By Steve Phenicie
People hearing the Gray Catbird for the first time have been known to exclaim incredulously, “A bird made that sound?” Yes, it did – this common, widespread bird is well-known for making a mewing sound like that of a cat. It also mimics the calls of other birds as well as tree frogs and mechanical sounds. Because of its well-developed vocal organ, it even has the ability to make two different sounds at once.
The catbird is mostly gray, of course, but its coloration has some touches that might play well with a Madison Avenue ad executive. The long tail is dark gray to black, and the bird has black eyes, legs, bill and “cap.” Best of all, look for the chestnut-colored feathers under the tail. In size the catbird is slightly smaller than a Northern Mockingbird.
Although catbirds sometimes appear in the open, they like to hide in thickets, brambles, and shrubby or brushy areas, particularly near water, including the Chattahoochee River. Their triangular-shaped range map stretches from Nova Scotia to British Columbia to Panama, with the winter range generally being limited to the Atlantic seaboard. A few linger far to the north, however, if they can find food. Catbirds apparently migrate mostly at night. Birds breeding in the Northwest seem to migrate east before turning south in fall, since they are rarely seen in the Southwest. In the winter the bird is rare north of Georgia’s Fall Line. At least in the East, populations seem to have been growing in recent decades.
In breeding season, a nest is built mostly by the female in dense shrubs, thickets, briar tangles, or low trees, usually three to 10 feet above the ground. The structure is a large, bulky cup of twigs, weeds, grass, leaves, and sometimes pieces of trash, lined with rootlets and other fine materials. Mama catbird usually lays four greenish blue eggs, although there can be from two to six. Incubation is by the female only and lasts about 12 or 13 days. Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 10 or 11 days after hatching. There are two broods per year. Catbirds won’t take any bullying from Brown-headed Cowbirds: If a cowbird lays eggs in the nest of a catbird, the adult catbirds usually puncture and eject them.
The catbird’s diet is heavy on insects and berries. Especially in early summer, it consumes many beetles, ants, caterpillars, grasshoppers, crickets, and other insects, as well as spiders and millipedes. Nestlings are fed almost entirely on insects. In fall and winter it eats many kinds of wild berries and some cultivated fruit. On rare occasions it catches small fish. At feeders, catbirds have been known to eat doughnuts, cheese, boiled potato, and corn flakes. Native fruit-bearing trees and shrubs such as dogwood, winterberry, and serviceberry might attract them to your yard.
The phrase “in the catbird seat” means being in a position of advantage and is based on the fact that the bird likes to make its mocking calls from a secluded perch. The term is rooted in the South and was popularized by the sportscaster Red Barber, who called Major League Baseball games from the 1930s through the 1960s and titled his autobiography Rhubarb in the Catbird Seat.
Georgia Audubon is building places where birds and people thrive.