Northern Mockingbird sings at night

Photo by Chris Bosak Northern Mockingbird perches before jumping up to a suet feeder in Stamford, Conn.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Northern Mockingbird perches before jumping up to a suet feeder in Stamford, Conn.

Here’s the start of a new birding column I wrote for The Hour and Keene Sentinel. It involves listening to a Northern Mockingbirds singing at night — about 11:30 p.m.

“I walked out of work following one of my night shifts here at The Hour. It was about 11:30 p.m. so the last thing I expected was to have an interesting birdwatching experience in the parking lot. The birding world is full of surprises, though. I stepped out the front door of the office building and was greeted by the sound of a Blue Jay calling. Odd time for a Blue Jay to be singing, I thought. Must be raiding a nest or having its nest raided. The Blue Jay called three times and then another bird starting singing. At that point I knew it wasn’t a Blue Jay and another bird at all. It was a Northern Mockingbird. My frame of mind instantly went from wonder to amusement. I walked over to the area where the bird was singing, pulled out my cell phone and started recording. It kept on belting out the tunes even though I was standing right under its tree. Mockingbirds are master imitators. They imitate the song of a bird species three times and then move on to the next imitation. And it goes on and on. It is believed that the more impressive the repertoire, the better chance the bird has of attracting a mate. I like listening to a mockingbird and trying to figure out the birds it is imitating. I almost always get a Carolina Wren and American Robin. This particular mockingbird the other night had an impressive list of at least 15 species that also included Tufted Titmouse, Red-winged Blackbirds and Broad-winged Hawk. Many mockingbirds also mix in non-bird noises, such as squeaky fences or alarm clocks. The songs are not sung half-h

Here’s the rest of the column

 Here’s the video

See how many bird species you can pick out from this impressive songster.

 

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4 thoughts on “Northern Mockingbird sings at night

  1. Nice story. Well yes, they do sing late and much later than 11:30 PM I might add. My favorite example of this is one I heard years ago (1978-79 era) in New Haven, CT. We had just finished moving some friends of ours into their new 3rd floor walk up apartment on Grand St. in New Haven ( an older mixed neighborhood at the time still with factories & shops surrounded & mixed in with housing) & were finally relaxing on the “porch roof” to escape the heat when we heard a Mockingbird start his repertoire. It was very late spring or early summer and a scorcher to boot. The time was 1:30 AM. He was by all accounts quite the singer with over 16 birds represented but the kicker was the policeman’s whistle, the beeping of a car horn followed by the 5PM factory quitting whistle. That was some mockingbird.

    Now a lot of folks don’t like them as their behavior isn’t particularly nice when it comes to other birds, or nearby people as they can be quite territorial, but I think that their mimicry is worth their shortcomings.

    Rich (via email)

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  2. Yesterday morning when we got up at 6:00 am. My husband asked me if I heard the mocking bird singing all night long??? He thought he was dreaming at first but then realized it was right in the bushes outside our window carrying on like it was the middle of the day…..
    Joan (via email)

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  3. Perhaps it is to distract predatory cats away from the nesting mate. I live in a semi-rural area, and have three such feline hunters whose prey unfortunately includes birds. I recently noticed a mockingbird pair nesting in a shrub close to the road in my front yard. Although I can’t tell whether it’s a returning pair, this shrub seems to host a mockingbird nest every year. This year, right after I noticed the bird(s) increased travel in and out of the shrub, I noticed a very noisy mockingbird singing seemingly non-stop in the side-yard near the back of my house. He/she sits atop a security light and sings loudly seemingly all day and night every day. Sometimes, he/she will move to a maple tree a little further back in the side-yard, but usually can be found on one or the other of these perches. It certainly seems to be working because my cats are spending lots of time in that area of my yard since the noisy mockingbird took up his serenade. Maybe the mockingbirds are also “mocking” birds like the killdeer who use distraction to protect their nests and offspring from predators.

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