High up in the tall cypresses on the south side of the park along Spinnaker Way, a Northern Mockingbird has elevated the musical tone of this area’s usual crow cacophony.
Another mockingbird answered occasionally from a tree further south on the grounds of the hotel. I can imagine the joy of the hotel guests with two of these tireless virtuosi serenading them all night.
Not just sweet singers, mockingbirds are fierce defenders of what they consider their territory. Photographer Phil Rowntree observed a mockingbird aggressively attacking a crow, a much larger bird, that ventured too close.
The Cornell bird lab website has these Cool Facts about Northern Mockingbirds:
- It’s not just other mockingbirds that appreciate a good song. In the nineteenth century, people kept so many mockingbirds as cage birds that the birds nearly vanished from parts of the East Coast. People took nestlings out of nests or trapped adults and sold them in cities such as Philadelphia, St. Louis, and New York, where, in 1828, extraordinary singers could fetch as much as $50.
- Northern Mockingbirds continue to add new sounds to their repertoires throughout their lives. A male may learn around 200 songs throughout its life.
- 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, but it may startle insects, making them easier to catch. On the other hand, it doesn’t often seem to be successful, and different mockingbird species do this same display even though they don’t have white wing patches.
- Northern Mockingbirds sing 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.
- Northern Mockingbirds typically sing 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.
- The female Northern Mockingbird sings too, although usually more quietly than the male does. She rarely sings in the summer, and usually only when the male is away from the territory. She sings more in the fall, perhaps to establish a winter territory.
- The oldest Northern Mockingbird on record was at least 14 years, 10 months old when it was found in Texas.