The Perpetual Songster

23 Apr

A few days ago, I awoke in the middle of the night to a rich variety of trills (no spills) and warbles.  It was one of my favorite songsters, the mockingbird, who loves to serenade his lady love in the dark of night, much to the chagrin of some folks.  Since I’ve grown up with the mockingbird’s tunes, I enjoy them anytime of day or night.

Singing his little heart out

The mocker is a tidy, trim bird, which can sing his own song (although I am not sure which is his own) as well as mimic many others.  Some experts say some mockingbirds can imitate up to 200 other birds’ songs as well as some non-human noises, such as sirens or cats.  I don’t know about that.  Every time I try to count a mockingbird’s songs, I max out about 9 or 10 because I lose track of what I’ve heard before.

I love to watch and listen to them as they make their way through the day.  The Cerritos mockers love to perch on something high, such as the top twig of a tree, the highest gable of a house or a light post.  They don’t like crows, cats or hawks and will chase them alone or sometimes in tandem.  Our ol’ cat, Bert (from many years ago), literally crawled on his belly across the street to get home when a pair of mockingbirds were chasing him.  He couldn’t get inside the house fast enough to escape their torment of plucking his short hairs and beak nips.  I think the crows might like to get into the mockers’ nests because they will chase crows in flight.  It’s amazing to me that neither the mocker nor the crow ever run into anything while the pursuit is going on.  I’ve even seen a crow do a barrel roll in an effort to escape those sharp beaks.

I have several bird pepper bushes in the back yard that are favorites of mockingbirds in the fall.  These little red peppers are hotter than Hades (Bob tried one once and told me

They like fruit and berries in the fall

not to even put my tongue on one which I took for the Gospel) and the mockers love them.  They land on the block wall and hop down to one of the branches to gobble up as many peppers as they can.  They try to be sneaky about it, but every time I see the bushes wiggle some, I know it’s them.  This picture is of a mocker eating a crab apple, but the effect is similar as one eating my bird pepper bush.

I had always heard that it was only the male of the species that sings, but the National Geographic Field Guide to Birds claims otherwise.  Both sexes sing in the fall to claim feeding territories.

I’ve sometimes seen a mockingbird spread his wings as if to pump himself up or make himself look bigger.  This wing

Wing-flash

movement is called a wing flash.  A Wikipedia article says it might be to cast a different shadow on the grass so as to fool insects or whatever the prey may be at that time.  I guess that makes sense, but I like my thought better.  They are saucy birds and I think they’d like to make themselves look bigger.

I wish I had taken all these pictures, but I never have the camera at the right moment nor do I have the skill or patience to get shots like these.

As I was outside this morning doing some weeding, I was treated to quite a symphony by mockingbirds, finches, sparrows, phoebes, a few warblers and even some starlings.  Some people might think all the songs are a cacophony but I choose to think they are a symphony because they were all blending into happy, contented sounds of creatures carrying on their lives without bothering each other or worrying about who has the correct religious or political viewpoint or who has more money than the other.  While I don’t particularly enjoy weeding the yard, I do really enjoy being outside listening to and watching God’s creatures.

2 Responses to “The Perpetual Songster”

  1. Connie Raub April 23, 2012 at 5:22 am #

    I appreciate your thoughts about the birds being a symphony of sound and not being concerned about many things we humans seem to get wound up about. I too enjoyed the Mockingbirds in California. I don’t seem to have any here in my area in Colorado. I have lots of other birds around though and saw a crow carrying a large branch in his beak for nest building the other day. Thanks for sharing your “Buzzard” observations and insights!
    Love,
    Connie

  2. B. H. Hoffmaster May 15, 2012 at 11:11 pm #

    You just amaze me with your writing and remind me so of your father in regards to you telling the stories. I can hardly wait to hear you report when you get back from Hawai.
    Uncle Bev

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