June 2011 Bird Photo of the Month

Catbird in the Park © Crystal Samuel
(Dumetella carolinensis)
White City, St. Lucie County, Nikon D3000

Wildlife photography takes patience, an understanding of natural light, and readiness to shoot the moment the scene, the bird’s posture and surrounding elements, form a pleasing, artistic composition. This image by Crystal Samuel shows how backlighting can contribute to a photograph…the color of subjects changes depending upon the time of day and the reflection of surrounding colors. In full sunlight, the gray catbird lives up to its name, but this particular early morning, the catbird glows a lovely deep bluish color.

Catbird fossils have been found in Bell Cave, AL dated from the late Pleistocene (400,000 years ago) and Raddatz Rockshelter, WI from the Holocene (10,000 years ago). The catbird breeding range begins in northern Florida and goes up into Canada. This one on spring migration is in typical habitat, close thickets where it gleans insects and fruit from leaves and branches.

Named after its mewing call this unfortunately calls to mind one factor contributing to the decline of this and other small bird species: feral and free-roaming domestic cats. Understandably 94 million US pet cats amounts to millions of birds lost yearly. A recent Smithsonian study determined cats to be the main cause of mortality of baby gray catbirds. Knowledgeable cat owners keep their cats indoors to protect native birds as well as their pets. Indoor cats live twice as long, not being harmed by dogs, cars, diseases, fights with raccoons, and other trauma.

Juanita Baker
Coordinator of the Photo of the Month,
Pelican Island Audubon Society

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