Enrichment and mental stimulation are important aspects in your cat’s life. Birdwatching together in a catio, an enclosed outdoor “cat patio,” can be the purrrfect activity to strengthen the bond between you and your cat while encouraging your kitty’s natural curiosity. After all, birdwatching is the best cat TV ever!
There is a wide variety of native bird species in North America and the Audubon’s Guide to North American Birds is a great resource to learn more about birds you may see. (If you don’t have many birds in your yard, take a look at our bird feeder guide for some ways to attract native bird populations to your area.)
Here are 10 birds and bird calls you might identify in your backyard anywhere in the United States:
1. American Goldfinch: The distinctive, sunny-yellow bodies and black wings of the American Goldfinch turn a bit more brown in the winter months. These birds nibble on daisy seeds, thistle and tree seeds from elm, alder and birch and may show up in your yard if these plants are available.
2. Northern Cardinal: The striking red color of the Northern Cardinal is easy to spot. They are fans of sunflower seeds, so if you’d like to increase your chances of seeing these beautiful birds, fill a bird feeder in your yard near a catio or window to enjoy all year long.
3. Mourning Dove: You might hear the Mourning Dove’s gentle coo before you spot one. They can have a sky blue eyelid that is one of their most distinguishing features. These birds are often found on the ground and underneath platform and other styles of bird feeders.
4. Black-capped Chickadee: In shades of black, white and tan, the Black-capped Chickadee is fond of birdfeeders with sunflower seeds. Their distinctive bird call, gorgeous black and white wings, and white on their black heads are key identifiers.
5. American Tree Sparrow: The American Tree Sparrow can be found in some of the most northern areas of the nation. These lovelies come in shades of amber and brown and are often found with their bird buddy, the Dark-eyed Junco. At your bird feeder, you’ll likely see them in small flocks, near the ground or low-area shrubs.
6. Downy Woodpecker: Many people have heard these common birds pecking away at bark. The Downy Woodpecker has a spot of red on their crown that easily identifies them. As the smallest woodpecker in North America, these birds are versatile, pecking at stalks as well as trees and joining mixed flocks of other small birds.
7. White-breasted Nuthatch: Another big fan of sunflower seeds, the White-breasted Nuthatch hides food in tight spaces for safekeeping. They explore trees for insects in the summer and supplement with seeds in winter. Their white breast stands out amongst their touches of black and gray-blue.
8. American Robin: The American Robin is among the first birds you’ll hear singing each morning in the spring and summer. Mainly grey with an orange-red breast and darker head, the American Robin loves eating fruit and insects and are often seen foraging on the ground or lawn.
9. American Crow: The all black American Crow is well-adapted to farmlands, towns and cities and is thought to be one of our most intelligent birds. The crow is not a picky eater and can be found searching the ground for everything from trash, snails, and frogs to seeds and berries.
10. House Finch: The House Finch has a gorgeous color range from a subtle brownish-orange to vibrant red, often on the breast and head. While they’re Native to the Southwest, human intervention has helped these birds colonize across the East and they now can be found at backyard feeders in every U.S. state.
Region – specific birds for catio cats to enjoy watching:
- In the northeast, Dark-eyed Juncos are common in all seasons.
- Kitties in the northwest will find Chestnut-backed Chickadees fascinating to watch no matter the season.
- Eastern Towhees are found in the southeast and can be spotted any time of year.
- During the breeding seasons, southwestern catio cats will enjoy watching the Bullocks Oriole in their backyard.
Bird-watching safety tips:
Cats love getting close and personal when playing or birdwatching. Make sure you keep both kitties and birds safe by ensuring your cat enjoys birdwatching in a catio, from an indoor window perch or while leashed on a backyard adventure with you!
Keeping birds safe may be more important now than ever before. A study published in the fall of 2019 showed a significant decline in the number of birds, possibly as much as 29% since 1970. Habitat loss is a likely key cause, but many other challenges impact bird populations as well. It’s crucial that we look out for these beautiful creatures.
Encouraging more birds to visit your garden:
One way to help the native bird population is by creating a bird-safe garden. There are many bird-positive features you can add to your yard. Get started with these five below, then add more as your heart desires – the sky’s the limit!
1. Add birdfeeders. Place the feeders in a location where birds will feel safe, away from other wildlife that may inflict harm. Keep those birdfeeders full and in tip-top shape by cleaning them monthly.
2. Add native plants including purple coneflowers, sunflowers, and shrubs like elderberry to help bring birds to your yard. A great resource is Audubon’s list of native plants by zip code to attract birds in your area.
3. Make sure windows are noticeable to birds by using window decals, external screens or tempera paint. Anything you can safely do to help distinguish a window for a bird will help prevent injury.
4. Nesting space and nest boxes will help birds stick around for a while. Be sure to offer only safe nesting materials for your winged neighbors. Stick to natural materials like twigs, leaves and grass clippings.
5. Water features are excellent options too. A birdbath or fountain can add a soothing sound to your garden and help your bird friends clean up and get a cool sip of water. Be sure to always keep the water clean.
Now that you have our avian friends flocking to your garden, grab a great pair of binoculars and enjoy birdwatching with your cat. You may even want to invest in a telephoto lens for your phone so you can capture some wonderful photos. Consider downloading a birding app or sign up for the American Bird Conservancy’s Birds of the Week to help you identify birds and their songs. And of course, listen to your cat’s chirping and chattering to let you know a bird is nearby!
Watch Gink, Griffin and Brina enjoying birds and wildlife from their window catio.
A backyard bird-safe haven is sure to provide seasons of birdwatching stimulation and enrichment for you and your cat.
Do you want a catio for your cat to enjoy bird watching?
Learn more about our DIY catio plans in a variety of designs and sizes to give your cats a stimulating view of their winged neighbors – and enjoy the fun of watching birds in your yard too!
And, as always, life is good in a catio!