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Monday, April 6, 2009

Listen to the Mockingbird

Ever since I heard my first Mockingbird in North Carolina 12 years ago, I have been enchanted by the varied songs of these birds. One male seems to like perching in the very tip-top of the bottle brush tree and singing his whole repertoire each evening. Sometimes we whistle back and he seems to respond with similar calls, but his are far prettier with trills, whistles, and song.

We have been aware for the last few weeks that a pair of Mockingbirds were nesting somewhere next door. A lady staying in the house next door for a couple of weeks showed me the nest she had found. I managed these photos today although the parents were NOT happy with me. The nest is in a huge "Pencil Tree", at least that is what Rose told me it was called.

When I showed the nest to my almost-six-year-old granddaughter she went right over to her soon-to-be-three sister and asked if she could show her the "Monkey Bird Nest".
From All About Birds at Cornel University:
The "American nightingale," the Northern Mockingbird is known for its long, complex songs that include imitations of many other birds. It is a common bird of hedgerows and suburbs, and has been slowly expanding its range northward.

  • Medium-sized songbird.
  • Long tail.
  • Pale gray above, whitish below.
  • Bill thin.
  • Two white wingbars.
  • Large white patches show in wings in flight.
  • White outer tail feathers.
  • Size: 21-26 cm (8-10 in)
  • Wingspan: 31-35 cm (12-14 in)
  • Weight: 45-58 g (1.59-2.05 ounces)

Cool Facts

  • The Northern Mockingbird frequently gives a "wing flash" display, where it half or fully opens its wings in jerky intermediate steps, showing off the big white patches. No one knows why it does this behavior, but some have suggested that it startles insects into revealing themselves. However, it does not appear to flush insects, and other mockingbird species that do not have white wing patches use the display, casting doubt on this idea.
  • The Northern Mockingbird is a loud and persistent singer. It sings all through the day, and often into the night. Most nocturnal singers are unmated males, which sing more than mated males during the day too. Nighttime singing is more common during the full moon. In well-lit areas around people, even mated males may sing at night.
  • A Northern Mockingbird continues to add new sounds to its song repertoire throughout its life.
  • The Northern Mockingbird typically sings throughout most of the year, from February through August, and again from September to early November. A male may have two distinct repertoires of songs: one for spring and another for fall. One study found only a one percent overlap in song types used in spring and fall.
  • The female Northern Mockingbird sings too, although usually more quietly than the male does. She rarely sings in the summer, usually only when the male is away from the territory. She sings more in the fall, perhaps to establish a winter territory.


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Gabby Faye
Michigan, United States
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