He has lived in our back yard for years, but he’s especially vocal this spring for some reason. As in he never shuts up. Day and night. All night. I have to have my Google mini play ocean noises, or sometimes, thunderstorms, just to drown him out so I can get to sleep. Since mockingbirds are monogamous and pair for life, I’m rooting for a summer wedding so he’ll calm down.
A mockingbird can learn up to 200 songs and noises in its life, which males arrange into different set lists for fall or spring. They’re among the world’s best mimids—a family of birds known for uncanny mimicry skills. They normally imitate fellow birds like jays, hawks, and, in our guy’s case, mourning doves. Experts say they can’t mimic a dove. I say they need to spend a day in our back yard.
Sometimes the clever fellows branch out to echo other familiar sounds, from frogs’ croaks, to creaky doors and car alarms. My friend’s repertoire includes dog barks and something close to a cat’s meow, which he intersperses in his long, strung-together series of calls.
Although most bird species only learn songs during a critical period in their youth, mockingbirds are considered open-ended learners, meaning that they learn new songs throughout their lives. Parrots and European Starlings are examples of other open-ended learners.
This unique ability made the mockingbird a popular cages bird, and by the early 20th century it was nearly extinct in large cities in America. Today it has nearly recovered in these areas, and is in fact experiencing range expansion due to human activities, such as the planting of multiflora roses.
Both sexes sing, but males are more conspicuous. An unpaired male may sing 24 hours a day in the breeding season—spring to early summer—especially during a full moon.
A pair of mockingbirds will have 2-3 broods per year. They build the nest in trees or shrubs and the females lays up to 6 greenish eggs splotches with reddish brown spots. The male is very defensive and aggressive of his nest. The one in our backyard will dive bomb our 18-pound cats to keep them away from his nest.
While my friend is noisy, he’s entertaining, and he also helps keep down the bug and spider population. In Arizona, mockingbirds also eat a variety of fruits, as well as the berries of lantana, pyracantha, and desert hackberry. I suspect he may also be the culprit who pecks holes in my pomegranate fruit and cleans out the insides.
I’m not going to get mad at my noisy outside neighbor while he searches for a woman. Instead I’ll lie in bed in the early morning hours and try to count the number of times his song changes. Try to think of him as loud but lovable. And if all else fails…close the windows and turn up the sound machine, knowing this is hormonally-driven behavior that will stop soon.
Blessed Be to the birds and the bees. And to you!