Tuesday, November 15


There is a certain lawless freedom to the song of the Catbird, for he does not entertain any regard for set rhythm, and he proceeds with a series of miscellaneous, interrupted sentences which bear no relationship with one another. His music set on paper in a thoroughly complete manner would appear thus:
Catbird Song by F. Schuyler Mathews

It is like some long rigmarole, which is humorously incomprehensible, though the bird apparently considers his strophes both serious and important. Listen to him sometime while he is singing in the shadowy tangles of the briers and willows through which winds the brook with gurgling, petulant impatience, and you will hear some unmistakable tuneful expostulations, persuasions, and remonstrances... The fact is, he is an imitator. He can imitate anything from a squeaking cartwheel to the song of a Thrush. He intersperses his melodic phrases with quotations from the highest authorities -- Thrush, Song Sparrow, Wren, Oriole, and Whip-poor-will. The yowl of the cat is thrown in anywhere, the guttural remarks of the frog are repeated without the slightest deference to good taste or appropriateness, and the harsh squawk of the old hen, or the chirp of the lost chicken, as always added in some malapropos manner. All is grist which comes to the Catbird's musical mill, and all is ground out according to the bird's own way of thinking.

-- F. Schuyler Mathews Field Book of Wild Birds and Their Music