Georgia Audubon was delighted to present long-time volunteer Mary Kimberly with the 2022 Scottie Johnson Spirit Award at the Holiday Party and Annual Meeting on Sunday, December 4.
Mary has been a longtime member and volunteer for Georgia Audubon. She's been involved with monitoring Project Safe Flight routes since the beginning of that program in 2015, waking up pre-dawn to begin her trek looking for birds that have collided with buildings or that she can deliver for rehabilitation. Mary is also a former board member for Atlanta (now Georgia) Audubon. She also previously served as the volunteer field trip coordinator before those duties were taken on by staff. She and her husband, Gavin, continue to lead frequent field trips at Murphy Candler Park and other Atlanta hotspots, and her relationships with field trip leaders were instrumental in helping us organize the very first Bird Fest back in 2016. In addition to her volunteer work with Georgia Audubon, Mary assists other bird conservation-related causes such as volunteering at the bird-banding stations at Jekyll Island and at Panola Mountain State Park.
About the Scottie Johnson Spirit Award
In 2018, Georgia Audubon lost an incredibly dedicated volunteer and dear friend, Eleanor Scott Johnson. "Scottie", as her family and friends called her, was an avid birder and long-time volunteer for Georgia Audubon. There wasn’t a task that Scottie wasn’t up for, whether that was giving educational presentations, walking a Project Safe Flight route, certifying wildlife sanctuaries, or writing the Ask Chippy column. Scottie always raised her hand to help us out. She was a nurse, a mother, a Master Birder, and a wonderful human being with an amazing spirit. Although we lost Scottie to cancer in 2018, we continue to celebrate her spirit, kindness, and perseverance annually by honoring an outstanding volunteer with the Scottie Johnson Spirit Award. Previous award winners include Anne McCallum (2019), Charles Loeb (2020), and Steve Phenicie (2021).
Georgia Audubon commissioned a watercolor painting of a Red-headed Woodpecker by Amanda Woomer, Georgia Audubon Board Member, that will be presented to Mary in recognition of her service to Georgia Audubon.
by Dottie Head, Director of Communications
Georgia Audubon announced five new members elected by members to the Board of Directors at their annual meeting on December 4. Jennifer Johnson McEwen, Marlena Reed, Jim Renner, Amy Beth Sparks, and Ayanna Williams were elected for three-year terms, beginning January 1, 2023. In addition, Joshua Gassman, Gus Kaufman, Paige Martin, Jon Philipsborn, and LaTresse Snead were elected to the Board of Directors for a second three-year term.
Jennifer Johnson McEwen Jennifer is a lifelong birder, with a passion for everything related to birds. When she’s not out enjoying nature, she is helping lead communications at Emory University. Jennifer’s career spans 25 years as a communicator with experience in broadcast news, agency, media, higher education, healthcare, and nonprofit sectors. Jennifer has spent the last 15 years directing medical and scientific communications, public affairs, and media relations for Emory’s Woodruff Health Sciences Center. Jennifer has a BA from the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism.
Marlena Reed is an award-winning marketing communications professional with agency-side and client-side experience. She currently serves as Senior Director of Strategic Communications at the Arthritis Foundation. Marlena has managed public relations, marketing and social media initiatives for organizations in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Marlena holds a bachelor of arts degree in communication from Arizona State University.
Jim Renner is a geologist and environmental planner with 35 years of experience in natural resource management. He is currently Manager of Environmental Stewardship for the Minerals Operations of Chemours, a leading chemical manufacturer. In this role, Jim is responsible for advancing Chemours’ corporate responsibility commitments within the Georgia and Florida mining operations by engaging with stakeholders, sponsoring independent research on the environmental effects of mining, and supporting partnerships for regionally significant conservation. Jim holds both a BS and an MS in geology from the University of Georgia.
As a lifelong animal and nature lover, Amy Beth Sparks has always been passionate about animals and nature. Her interest in sustainability led to her current role as Director of Communications within the Public Affairs, Communications, and Sustainability function at The Coca-Cola Company. In this role, Amy Beth has created communications strategies, crafted messaging, and supported many sustainability projects. In addition to a BA in Literature from Georgia State University, Amy Beth also holds a master’s degree in teaching English to middle- and high-school students.
Ayanna Williams is a tested leader in place-based environmentally focused nonprofits. She currently serves as the Director of Community and Environmental Resilience at the National Recreation and Park Association focusing on facilitating conversations between park and recreation professionals and community partners to amplify equitable solutions to address historic environmental injustices. Throughout her career Ayanna has cultivated a broad perspective and deep understanding of environmental resilience through local parks. Ayanna holds a Master of Social Work from the University of Michigan with a concentration in community organizing and social systems.
“We are excited to welcome Jennifer, Marlena, Jim, Amy, and Ayanna to the Georgia Audubon Board of Directors,” says Paige Martin, board chair. “These individuals bring a wealth of talents and experiences to the Board that will help Georgia Audubon fulfill its mission of building places where birds and people thrive.”
Additional Georgia Audubon board members include Joshua Andrews, Robert Cooper, Marc Goncher, Laurene Hamilton, Mary Anne Lanier, Susie Maclin, Ellen Miller, Scott Porter, Esther Stokes, and Amanda Woomer.
For more information on Georgia Audubon or to read the full biographical sketches of our new board members, visit our website.
About Georgia Audubon: Georgia Audubon is building places where birds and people thrive. We create bird-friendly communities through conservation, education, and community engagement.
By Steve Phenicie
Probably no Pilgrim ever said to a Native American: “Would you like to come over for Thanksgiving dinner? We’re having Hooded Merganser.” The Pilgrims are known to have eaten “waterfowl” at their famous feast, but Hooded Merganser might not have been a top choice. Mergansers are the only ducks that specialize in eating fish, and because of that, their flesh is said to have a fishy taste that many people find unpalatable.
But most people are more interested in looking at these handsome birds than eating them anyway. Both sexes have crests that give them a punk-rocker appearance. They have thin, serrated bills, with males having a black head with a large white patch that varies in size when the crest is raised or lowered but is always prominent. The breast is white and the back a rich chestnut. Females and immatures are gray and brown, with tawny-cinnamon tones on the head.
For habitat, Hooded Mergansers like shallow ponds, especially those where they can tuck in around the edge and find some cover. They may be in more open marsh habitats if artificial nest sites, such as those offered to Wood Ducks, are available. The nest site is typically in a tree cavity near the water, usually 10 to 50 feet above ground, but rarely up to 80 feet or more.
In addition to fish, mergansers like crayfish and other crustaceans, aquatic insects, tadpoles, mollusks, and small amounts of plant material. Young ducklings eat mostly insects.
This bird is especially common around the Great Lakes, although it is also widespread elsewhere. Year-round populations occur in two ranges: One extends from Nova Scotia to eastern Oklahoma and northern Louisiana. A second includes parts of southern British Columbia, Washington state, and patches of Oregon and western Montana. The Hooded Merganser is a short-distance migrant, with the majority wintering along the Mississippi Flyway in the south-central U.S.
Some places in metro Atlanta you might see them are E.L. Huie and other Clayton County sites such as Lakes Blaylock and Shamrock. Other areas in the state are Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, Dooly County Road Farm Pond, Carter's Lake, and Altamaha Wildlife Management Area.
Some cool facts about Hooded Mergansers:
Georgia Audubon to Join Three Other Nonprofits at New Trees Atlanta Kendeda Tree House
Georgia Audubon will be moving into some new “digs” around the first of the year, and we’ll be sharing the space with friends!
Construction on the new Trees Atlanta Kendeda Tree House is wrapping up, and Georgia Audubon and other partners are on schedule to move into the new building at 825 Warner Street SW by the end of the year.
Located on 2.9 acres of a former industrial lot, the new facility includes 1.5 acres of restored greenspace and two large buildings. The main building faces Warner Street and the Westside Trail of the Atlanta BeltLine. This building houses staff offices and conference rooms, classrooms, and spaces with catering facilities for events and community gatherings. A second structure is an operations and logistics center for trucks and equipment. The buildings are surrounded by open and forested outdoor learning spaces with nearly 200 new trees that will be planted on the property.
Georgia Audubon will have use of five shared workstations and one private office, as well as access to meeting rooms, event space, storage for tools and other equipment, and a secure place to park the truck used by our habitat restoration team.
“If we learned anything from COVID, it was that we can all work very efficiently at home but that we also need a flexible work space for in-person meetings and events,” says Executive Director Jared Teutsch. “Our new space at the new Trees Atlanta Kendeda Tree House will allow us to work collaboratively when needed, while maintaining the flexibility that remote work provides. We’ll also have access to a fantastic event space that we can use for educational programs and large events, like our Georgia Bird Fest Closing Celebration.”
The Kendeda Tree House offers excellent access to the West Side Atlanta BeltLine and is within easy walking distance of one of Georgia Audubon’s Chimney Swift Towers.
Four Nonprofits Under One Roof
With 23,000 square feet of interior space, the new facility will accommodate Trees Atlanta, as well as three other environmental nonprofit organizations: Georgia Audubon, The Conservation Fund, and The Nature Conservancy in Georgia.
“The mission of each of these organizations is closely aligned with Georgia Audubon’s mission to build places where birds and people thrive, and we look forward to working collaboratively with these organizations,” says Jared Teutsch, Executive Director.
The property at 825 Warner Street required brownfield remediation and had only 3% tree canopy on the lot, which includes a mature Southern red oak that stands in the western boundary of the lot. After the construction and landscape installation is completed, half of the land will be restored greenspace. With newly planted native plants and trees growing alongside the oak tree, the canopy cover will increase to more than 60% in about 15 years. Plans are underway to certify a portion of this landscape as a Georgia Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary.
Trees Atlanta Co-Executive Director Greg Levine shared his thoughts, “We want to be an example of how a new development can also bring ecological improvements. We hope to be a good neighbor and be a useful resource for education and employment opportunities for the neighborhoods nearest us while we work with communities across metro Atlanta.”
Bringing Others Along
The decision to share the office space was a confluence of timing and chemistry, says Trees Atlanta.
The Conservation Fund has offices across the country, and the choice to locate its Georgia staff at the TreeHouse is a strategic decision that will open up fresh opportunities for its current employees, as well as potentially attract new employees. “We want a vibrant and exciting workplace that will allow us to retain and attract talented staff,” according to Andrew Schock, Georgia and Alabama State Director of The Conservation Fund. “Working alongside other conservation colleagues will allow for more sharing of conservation ideas that will benefit the people of Atlanta.”
In March 2020, The Nature Conservancy in Georgia closed their offices as a health precaution because of COVID-19. As the months of the pandemic went on, they came to the conclusion that they worked just as effectively virtually as they did in a room together. By sharing space at the TreeHouse, they see the potential to use less office space and reduce their environmental footprint, while also having larger meeting spaces available as needed. “The last few years have presented us with many unique challenges. As much as we have all been able to do remotely, there are some things that are just better done sitting across the table from one another in a conference room,” explained Interim Executive Director Dan Ryan.
Georgia Audubon is excited to be moving into this wonderful new space with Trees Atlanta, The Conservation Fund, and The Nature Conservancy. We all look forward to being good neighbors in our new home on Warner Street and to welcoming members and guests to our new facility.
By Alex LoCastro, Conservation Program Coordinator
Recent research has shown that the biggest drivers of native bird population decline in North America are habitat loss and habitat degradation. These dual forces have been responsible for staggering losses among many of our native bird species, and today our landscapes are home to nearly three billion fewer breeding birds than they were back in 1970. To help combat these losses, Georgia Audubon’s conservation team is focused on building and restoring as much native habitat as possible for the benefit of birds and other wildlife.
Georgia Audubon’s Wildlife Sanctuary Program has been extremely successful, and we’re well on our way to building a network of certified native landscapes across the state, with the goal of re-establishing habitat connectivity in and around our increasingly urbanized and developed cities. In order to be certified, applicants must meet a series of environmental requirements and pass an assessment of the property carried out by our Avian Advocate volunteers. To date, the program has certified nearly 800 properties consisting of more than 29,000 acres, and we hope to continue growing the program across the state in years to come.
One limitation of the Wildlife Sanctuary Program that has in some ways contributed to the success of the program is the in-depth, rigorous process required for certification. While it is entirely feasible for our volunteers to walk the entirety of a two-acre property in metro Atlanta and make detailed recommendations about how best to improve it, it would be nearly impossible, logistically-speaking, to do the same for a 200- or 2,000-acre property somewhere in rural Georgia. It’s true that even a small plot of native plants can make a huge difference to the wildlife in your local area, but, on a larger scale, it’s critically important to help protect and rehabilitate as much habitat as possible. We’ve determined that the best way to do that is by creating a new conservation program designed specifically for these larger properties.
That program is the brand-new Georgia Audubon Habitat Stewardship Program. Unlike the Wildlife Sanctuary Program, this program is self-reporting in nature and will serve large properties of all kinds, from 10-acre, privately-owned homesteads and farms to multi-thousand-acre, publicly-owned Wildlife Management Areas and more. The goal is to enable property owners and managers to make improvements to their land for the benefit of native wildlife while also connecting them to educational resources, technical assistance programs, cost-sharing and revenue-generating programs, engagement and research opportunities, perks associated with Georgia Audubon membership, recognition as an official Habitat Steward in our program, and more. Our hope is that the program will further advance our own conservation goals while also supporting various partner organizations and providing tangible benefits to its applicants.
If you own or manage a large property and wish to enter it into the Habitat Stewardship Program as a pilot property, we encourage you to fill out one of our preliminary applications located at www.georgiaaudubon.org/habitat-stewardship-program. Please fill out the short survey with basic information regarding your property and its use, and you will be entered into the pool of potential candidates. From there, additional information about the program and the next steps will be provided as they become available.
Properties for this program will be considered only if they are more than 10 acres. All property types above this size are encouraged to apply to the program. Smaller spaces should consider applying for certification through the Georgia Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary Program. If you have any questions, please email Alex LoCastro, conservation program coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Cathy Rouse
by Georgia LaMar, Georgia Audubon Avian Advocate Volunteer
Georgia LaMar certified the Walter's Wood Homeowners Association Property on North Carter Road in Decatur as a Georgia Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary earlier this year. She interviewed Cathy Rouse, who oversaw the property restoration and certification, for this newsletter.
AUDUBON CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT (CBC) CREATOR PROFILED IN FIRST FULL-LENGTH BIOGRAPHY
Frank M. Chapman (1864-1945), the visionary innovator who conceived the Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC) now entering its 123rd year, is the forgotten giant of American conservation whose overriding passion from early childhood was birdlife in all its incredible variety and dazzling beauty.
The Man Who Loved BIrds: Pioneer Ornithologist Dr. Frank M. Chapman, 1864-1945 by James Huffstodt is the first full-length biography of this iconic bird man of the American Museum of Natural History. The 2022 biography may be purchased in paperback or E-book format on amazon.book.com. The 400-page book includes vintage photos, extensive footnotes, and bibliography.
Chapman was a self-taught ornithologist and banker who early on abandoned the prison of the teller’s cage for a life of science spent with the New York Museum of Natural History on Central Park West where during his 54-year career he became legendary as the Dean of Ornithologists. This stern, very proper Victorian, had a starchy soul and rather intimidating presence concealing a sensitive and romantic soul.
This extensively researched volume tells the story of Chapman's life of adventure, danger, and discovery spent in search of beautiful wild birds in remote wilderness areas throughout North and South America. He also led the fight against the mass slaughter of wading birds, lobbied for the first bird protection legislation, laid the foundation for modern South American ornithology, and was a friend of President Theodore Roosevelt, who shared his passion for bird and wildlife conservation.
Acknowledged as the Dean of American Ornithologists, Chapman left an imperishable legacy as an influential pioneer whose adventures in the field included dodging rattlesnakes and tornados in Texas, enduring a savage Caribbean hurricane aboard a small sailing craft, negotiating with armed revolutionaries in the South American jungle, and riding muleback on narrow, treacherous trails high in the Andes mountains.
Chapman authored 17 books, and founded Bird Lore magazine, forerunner of today’s Audubon magazine. His landmark bird guide, Handbook of Birds of Eastern North America, 1895, went through several editions and was wildly popular for more than 40 years. He was also a sought-after bird lecturer and educator who helped father the modern birdwatching movement.
Biographer James Huffstodt of Tallahassee spent 25 years working as an information-education officer before retiring to write Chapman’s story. THE MAN WHO LOVED BIRDS is his fourth published non-fiction work. As a freelance writer he published feature stories in various magazines including Civil War Times, the DAR’s American Spirit, Florida Wildlife Magazine Illinois Outdoor Highlights, Dog World Magazine, Tallahassee Magazine, and Sea Classics.
Visitors to the Sandra Deal Learning Center at Camp Jekyll may notice some new, tiny dots adorning the glass on the building. These dots are special window treatments designed to prevent birds from flying into the glass. The project was made possible thanks to a partnership between Georgia Audubon, the University of Georgia, and the Jekyll Island Authority, through a grant from the Disney Conservation Fund.
The dots are a special Feather Friendly film that reduces the transparency of the glass and breaks up reflection, preventing birds from flying into them. Feather Friendly film has been applied to approximately 1342 square feet of the exterior windows. Spaced two inches apart, the dots break up the reflection and alert birds that the space is not a clear flyway, causing them to stall and fly in a different, safer direction. Current research estimates that between 365 million and 1 billion birds perish each year from colliding with buildings in the United States.
The Sandra Deal Learning Center at Camp Jekyll, named for former Georgia First Lady Sandra Dunagan Deal upon opening in 2016, includes a 300-seat auditorium, aquatic and reptile labs, and classrooms. The wife of former Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, Mrs. Deal was a retired school teacher and advocate for childhood literacy until her recent passing in August 2022.
To learn more about Georgia Audubon's work to prevent bird-building collisions or how to prevent collisions at home, visit our collisions page.
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.
Species Profile: Gray Catbird
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.