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Bird Cliches – What the Heck is the Catbird Seat?

The Catbird Seat is used to describe an upper-handed position. Someone in the catbird seat is often “sitting pretty”. But is this really the position of one of our favorite birds, the Gray Catbird?

Gray Catbird

This term is credited with coming from the southern U.S. and in the 1940s sportscaster Red Barber used it for “a pitcher who was almost certain to strike out all the batters.” Catbirds do sit up high but are often found in low tangles. Their incessant chatter mixed with “mewing” is counterproductive to their secretive nature. Plus, their high energy often leads to long periods of non-sitting.

Regardless of the validity of “the catbird seat”, it’s a cool cliche of one cool gray bird.

Grey Catbird


  1. August 5, 2009    

    I had never heard that cliche before, but I love to know the history behind our sayings.

    The Gray Catbird is indeed a very cool bird. I had never seen one until this year. Along the creek that runs near my home here at Avimor, north of Boise in Idaho I have around of dozen of them. I expect to see juveniles any day now. They make all kinds of interesting sounds and I have heard them several times making that “meowing” sound for which they are named.

  2. The Birdfreak Team The Birdfreak Team
    August 6, 2009    

    Robert – gotta love their chattering voice which almost always leads to a “meow” or two. We’ll try to cover other odd bird-related cliches in the near future!!

  3. Ron Franklin Ron Franklin
    August 6, 2009    
  4. The Birdfreak Team The Birdfreak Team
    August 7, 2009    

    Ron – awesome photo and totally fitting 🙂

  5. August 10, 2009    

    i never knew that’s where that saying came from. thanks for the posts. makes you wonder where a lot of our little cliches originated from

  6. The Birdfreak Team The Birdfreak Team
    August 11, 2009    

    Binocular Harness Guy – we are going to be researching more cliches over time to try and uncover just how much sense (or none at all) they make 🙂

  7. August 11, 2009    

    that would be great i know i for one will enjoy those posts

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