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Attracting Chats

Dear Bird Folks,

Last winter I had a yellow-breasted chat eating in the privet bush in my back yard. It stayed for a few weeks until hordes of robins stripped the berries off. Other than more privets, is there a way that I can attract that chat back to my yard this winter?

Lee, Orleans


Oh man, Lee,

You had a chat? How cool is that? Chats are one of the most uncommon and unusual songbirds that we see around here, if they are ever seen at all. Chats are freaks of the natural world. Not as wacky as the platypus or Mike Tyson, but still they are odd enough that the eggheads don’t know what to do with them. They look like a tanager, sing like a mockingbird, sneak around in dense thickets like a sparrow, but their DNA proves them to be a warbler. And they winter in the deep tropics of Central America, except for a handful that like to spend the winter here on Cape Cod. Go figure.

Not ever having had a chat in my own yard, I needed to do some research about them on the Internet. I was reading about them for more than an hour, thinking that chats lead pretty steamy and provocative lives, when I realized that I was on the wrong kind of “chat line.”

Chats eat lots of insects, but they will also eat wild fruit and berries, which could explain their ability to survive a winter on Cape Cod. I’ve read that chats will rarely visit backyard feeders, but I wasn’t able to find out any specifics. However, many birds that like both fruit and insects will occasionally eat dried fruit and suet from out feeding stations. It wouldn’t hurt to try some chopped up fruit and bits of suet and see what happens. But like most birds, good habitat is what the chat really likes. Habitat is what attracted it to your yard in the first place. The best thing you can do for the chat is to encourage your fruit-producing thickets.

Sorry that I wasn’t too much help for you, Lee. Hopefully your bird will come back again this winter. I could write a bit more but I’m in a hurry to get back to that other chat line. I need to find out what happened to Zelda.