Warming Up

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottis)

The weather’s warming up, and this newly arrived Northern Mockingbird is doing likewise. Spotted here in the southern meadow of the Native Plant Area, the bird mostly listened to the nearby Song Sparrow, Lesser Goldfinch, and House Finches, contributing only minor warblings, and sometimes opening its beak wide without issuing a human-audible sound. But we’re not fooled. This bird is a formidable music maker once it gets going. It has an endless repertoire and boundless energy.

The mockingbird is also a ferocious defender of what it considers its territory. The ubiquitous American Crows, even though they are considerably bigger, have learned to leave this feisty featherball with its sharp beak alone.

Males and females look the same, and both sing, females less often. Unmated males sing most of all. Mockingbirds learn tunes from each other, from other species of birds, and from ambient sounds like traffic, machinery, radio, and the like. They may have almost totally different repertoires in spring and in fall. The learning process goes on throughout their lives, so that older birds have a richer repertoire than juveniles.

With any luck, we’ll soon have a chance to record a mockingbird giving a concert. Can’t wait!

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottis)

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