Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mocking bird salute

I've lived in a two story townhouse home for the past seven years and for the last five of those years, I have had a yearly visitor in the form of a Mocking Bird. For those of you who aren't familiar with this bird, here is what Wikipedia tells us:

Mockingbirds are a group of New World passerine birds from the Mimidae family. They are best known for the habit of some species mimicking the songs of other birds and the sounds of insects and amphibians, often loudly and in rapid succession. Wikipedia

Tennessee Mocking Bird
Mimus polyglottos
It is an ironic sidenote that the mocking bird is the Tennessee State Bird genus Mimus polyglottos, which my home state adopted and made official on April 19, 1933. Why am I writing about mocking birds? Because these hardy little birds, if you have read the above Wiki information, are very LOUD and PERSISTENT in their yearly nesting and mating habits. These habits include finding the highest point available for them to perch and warble their little hearts out, pitching woo...loudly and the night. And to hapless townhouse inhabitants attempting to grab a few precious hours of sleep.

I'm happy to share with you that not only do mocking birds imitate the songs of other birds, insects and amphibians, they imitate cats and dogs, machinery and musical instruments, and the occasional slamming door or rusty hinge. They trill through their repertoire with great and lusty enthusiasm, rarely pausing as they skillfully switch from bird song to cat meow to truck engine revving continuously. At times, it can be amusing listening to the sheer volume of calls they can produce. My bedroom happens to be the tallest peak of this row of townhouse units, so this is why I am the lucky recipient of the nightly serenade and mocking bird orchestra.

Again, you're probably wondering why I'm writing about this topic. For months now, I have been turning over in my mind the fact that humans and wildlife aren't that greatly different. I've written before about social masks that we all employ to get through our daily existence. In a similar manner to the mocking bird, we also adapt our speaking voice in tone, inflection, volume and emotion to communicate our thoughts and emotions to those around us. We wear different clothing, hairstyles and cosmetics to project various public images, to denote our current mood and again, to use as social camouflage and quite often, as a courtship tool.
The thing that always strikes me is how cheerful mocking birds are, every single night, in their pursuit of procreation. I am sure that to the mocking bird, this is not a cause for amusement. Indeed, their nightly concert is a life and death effort to continue their species. My human ears cannot help, however, finding charm in the widely varied trills, chirps, barks, cricket sounds (those are the exception to the finding charm part as they really drive me nuts) and engine noises. These small birds are quite aggressive in their display of auditory talents, finding no shame at all in adopting sounds from another species or object to further their goals. In some ways, I would liken it to a painter painting, using colors to express different emotions and messages, or a conductor standing in front of an orchestra with arms raised, wand at the ready to coax a stellar performance from all the musicians. Mocking birds simply do the same with their calls.
Of course, when it is 3:30 am and I am still hearing incessant bird calls, cat screeches and hissing as well as various motorized noises in rapid succession, it isn't quite as charming or amusing anymore. There are many nights when I lie awake listening to the endless, noisy litany that I am suspicious my particular mocking bird is perched by my window with a calculating, crafty, borderline maniacal gleam in his beady little eyes, fully aware he is costing me a decent night of sleep.  I also wonder about the female counterpart to my serenading friend; is she sitting out there in the night, listening, brought to a feminine birdie swoon, thinking, "Oh my!  Now that is one sexy, masculine, attractive boat motor sound!  That must be the father of my future children!  I must fly to him now!"?  Even then, when these thoughts are chasing blearily through my tired mind, I do admit to a certain level of admiration for this little bird's plucky spirit.

We as human beings could take a leaf from their book as we navigate our own daily lives. Shine our emotions brightly and enthusiastically, be unafraid to show every facet and skill we possess in a lyrical manner, perhaps borrow someone else's form of expression momentarily, communicate with others with absolute enthusiasm...and most of all, find a high spot to proclaim our love widely and loudly to the masses. Wouldn't that be an interesting, entertaining courtship process?

There is no great or deep message here this time around. More a tangle of sleep deprived thoughts that have been assailing me for several months now during the nightly mocking bird salute. As annoying as my current feathered visitor can be each night, I still wind up missing the sounds as fall weather sets in. I feel a sort of kinship evolve in the months each mocking bird sets up housekeeping outside my bedroom window. From it has sprung a blog post that I'm not sure will capture readers' attention in quite the same way as other posts, but perhaps many of you will remember similar memories of your own with a mocking bird salute. And perhaps you will smile at the memories.


  1. Hope you're mocking bird finds a mate soon!! I've always admired the way the can imitate anything, we've had a couple visit our bird feeder from time to time it's always interesting to hear their calls.



  2. Hey Bill, the thing about mocking birds is that it doesn't matter if they've found a mate. They just like to sing all night long, regardless! Last night's serenade was an ADD rendition of 4 different bird calls over and over with the occasional rusty door hinge thrown in for color and variety. ;-)

    ~ Dawn

  3. "'Oh my! Now that is one sexy, masculine, attractive boat motor sound! That must be the father of my future children! I must fly to him now!'?" - This cracked me up :)

    If only they would change their singing schedule to morning hours, that would be ideal. My building is near a bus stop so I'm stuck hearing bus noises in the middle of the night. But I suppose if a mocking bird was near, it would imitate that sound so I'd be stuck hearing it twice lol.

  4. *L*...Anahid, it cracked me up as well when I was writing that particular passage. I just have to believe animals have some sort of sentient thoughts, so I'm always transferring my own human emotions into the equation. And yes, if you had a mocking bird close to your place, he'd definitely learn the bus sounds and sing them on maniacal looping status every single night...LOUDLY.

    Love you sweetie!

    ~ Dawn