Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird aka. Slate-gray Mockingbird
Green Cay, Boynton Beach, Florida, USA
April 2015
Member of the Mockingbird and Thrasher Family
§A Mewing of Catbirds§

~true bird fact~ We hope you, dear reader, are as delighted as we are to discover that the Gray Catbird actually does Meow. Well, it's debatable how much, exactly, he sounds like a cat, but enough so that that's what this bird is named after. Check this youtube video out (not mine) and decide for yourself. Like other member of his family, Gray Catbird has a well developed voice-box (in bird terms, a syrinx) and a complex song that often incorporates other noises from his environments, both natural and man made.

Completely unreadable in any conventional sense
Thinks he's a cat. Maybe he is. It's hard to deny such a strong conviction
Loves bells and shiny objects
Desires attention, but denies you his affection

Carl Linnaeus
A Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, Carl Linneaus did a lot for the field of ornithologist. It's his system of taxonomy (that is, classification of living things) that our system is still based on today. He's basically the guy that previously profiled naturalist William Swainson wanted to be, but without all the crazy. He was the first man to describe this catbird here, among 4400 other animals, in his groundbreaking work Systema Naturae, in which he pioneered the binomial scientific naming scheme. Believe it or not, animal names used to be much worse. Much of his writing, including this book, were in Latin, marking him as a total dweeb. Ironically, the catbird has an extremely complex taxonomical history and has been 'gotten wrong' a number of times. You don't name something a 'catbird' if you really know what it is, I guess. Unlike many in his field, and despite his clear nerd-dom, he was a bit of celebrity in his time, and was generally positively regarded by all. A cool Linnaeus story is that he once had to flee Hamburg because he called fake on a taxidermied hydra (!!!) that was the mayor's prized possession.

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