Friday, May 3, 2013

Ode To A Mockingbird

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At first I wanted to kill him, now I worry when I don't hear him at night.  He sings his heart out, under my window every night, all night.  At first he kept me up,  now I sleep like a baby knowing he is somewhere around.  He sings at night, all day long and even in the rain...and all this in his quest for a mate.   Now that I know why he sings it breaks my heart.

There are nights when he sounds like Pavarotti AND Friends with the New York Symphony and Zubin Mehta at the helm.  He came into my kitchen one day, a balmy April afternoon when the sky was clear and the breeze was blowing into the house from the back door I had left opened while I made lunch. That is when I fell in love.  Now I worry if I don't hear him.  Is he still around, did he find a mate, will he have babies? shudder (!).  Pavarotti and friends... what a nightmare!

Of course I'm talking about a mockingbird. THE Northern Mockingbird to be exact.   Being a city girl,  at first I thought he was a nightingale.  After all it sang at night, all night.  But those do not habitate North America.  Oh the things one learns when one does not live in a condo!

The Northern Mockingbird, the most well known representative of this family above the equator, is known scientifically as Mimus polyglottos, which comes from the Greek “mimus” to mimic, and “ployglottos” for many-tongued. The song of the mockingbird is actually a medley of the calls of many other birds. Each imitation is repeated two or three times before another song is initiated. A given bird may have 30, 40 or even 200 songs in its repertoire, including other bird songs, insect and amphibian sounds, and even the occasional mechanical noise.

Part of the mockingbird’s advantage over other avians is physical; it uses more of the muscles in its vocal organ, the syrinx, than most other passerines do, many more than non-passerines like raptors or waterfowl. But the mockingbird also has a mind for music. It’s been theorized that this species has more brain matter devoted to song memory than most other birds do. Why does the mockingbird sing? The vocal mimicry trait seems to indicate that lyrical flow is an especially potent aphrodisiac in mockingbird circles, although some lonely males warble and whine the whole night through when unable to find a mate. 

Well!  Now we know.  At first,  I seriously considered finding a way to shut him up.  Seriously, when one can't sleep at 3 o'clock in the morning for more than a week the mind works in strange ways. The next morning the thought process changed to a quest for a mate.  Just where did  one find a female mockingbird?  A pet shop? Mail order bride?  Amazon! they have everything! Seriously, deprived of sleep a person's thought process can go bonkers.

And then one day I heard a commotion down below and the Sous Chef going nuts.  A flutter, wings flapping against the walls of the great room and there he was.  I just knew it was HIM,  my tormentor.  But then I saw him so helpless, so frightened and soooo small I couldn't believe such a little thing could have so much firepower.  Finally after a couple of attempts and a little push from the Sous Chef and me, off he went into the wild blue yonder to sing for yet another day...and night.

See him in the orchid?

Let' s face it, neither one of us was ready for this

Get me outta here!!!

Sitting on my daughter's experiment for growing (?) and obviously not working 

Poor thing, this photo broke my heart!
When the big rains came a couple of days ago,  I could still hear him singing in the middle of the downpours.  I haven't heard him today...perhaps and hopefully he is on an extended honeymoon!

Here is a cool site for more info and stories about mockingbirds!

And here is a concert .  I know, beautiful, but not at 3:00 am!


  1. We enjoy waking up to the sounds and songs of the birds in the morning. Not so sure I want to hear them at night. What a story. As much as I love to see birds, I'm as frightened of them in person as they are of me.

    1. To hear them in the morning is magical...that's where they belong.

  2. Of course I had to go to the Cornell Lab site to hear them! We have Robins. They sit outside the window and start to sing between 3 and 4 am. I don't know why but that's when they think the day begins. The first time it happens I am always annoyed but the song is quite beautiful and eventually I fall back to sleep so it's now a welcome sound.
    I wonder why your bird came into the house? Maybe he was as curious about you as you were about him! Maybe his singing is like a birdy blog and he's telling all his friends about this adventure.

    1. You sure they are Robins? singing at night? He probably came in to nosy around. This is not the first one to come in. I've had finches too.

  3. What a magical story. I have had bats in the house and went crazy worrying about them. Usually got them out but once my little pal evaded me. We had to leave to go back to the city and I was so worried the little guy (and they are very small) would starve.

    I am sure your friend is hale and happy with a mate... it is that time of year.
    Thanks for all the great info about Mockingbirds -- who knew?

    1. No such luck Deana, he is out there singing his little heart out as I type this. Guess he was just taking a break...or his potential mate dumped him!

  4. Loved this post and enjoyed hearing the "concert" but I don't think I would care to hear it during the night either. I am awakened every morning by our concert of birds and just adore the sound. It's kind of like listening to a gentle fountain, relaxing but at the appropriate time.

    Carolyn/A Southerner's Notebook

    1. I was talking to Mother last weekend and she seems to have one too. We both put our phones to the window and confirmed that indeed we were both being serenaded by mockingbirds. This one is so loud he drowns everyone else's concert. Hard to tell what else is out there.

    2. I used to love the Mockingbirds in NJ but since moving here to MI we miss them! We had one who would stand on the rooftop singing and at one point in his song would leap up and flutter back down in a ballet. Such a delightful bird. Here we've had a Cardinal singing all night long for several days. I always feel sorry for them if they are up all night singing in search of a mate. Let's hope your boy finds her! ;o) We do miss them out here!

  5. Now you've got the song "Listen to the Mockingbird" running through my head, although the stately original lament, not the sped-up version that bizarrely became the theme song for The Three Stooges.
    --Road to Parnassus

  6. Loved listening to the Northern Mockingbird! Although maybe not at 3 a.m. You are a good sport!



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