Varied thrush (photo by Eleanor Briccetti via Wikimedia Commons)
Spring starts late in the northern Rockies so many birds are still singing here in Glacier National Park. Fortunately the varied thrush is one of them.
In the breeding season the varied thrush (Ixoreus naevius) is a shy bird of mature western forests. He sings from the top of a conifer for 10 to 15 minutes but the trees are so tall that he’s hard to find. If he wasn’t singing we’d never know he’s there.
His song consists of one note that lasts two seconds. He pauses 3 to 20 seconds and then sings again, a different note. The disembodied sound echoes in the canyons.
Like all thrushes his syrinx allows him to blend two sounds so his note has a burry quality. It sounds like this:
This song is unique in North America and easy to identify by ear.
Northern mockingbird, singing and wing flashing (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
This month someone in my neighborhood complained he was kept awake at night by birds singing loudly in the dark. Every song was different so he thought it was a variety of birds. Who was making that racket? It was only one northern mockingbird.
Mockingbirds are well known for nocturnal singing. The majority of those who do it are lonely bachelors trying to attract a female. They belt out their songs as loudly as possible in all directions and they prefer to do it at the most aggravating time for humans — midnight to 4:00am. Studies have shown they sing more on moonlit nights and in well-lit areas. Woe to city and suburban dwellers near street lights!
The video below, recorded at 2:00am, is understandably dark. The bird is exceptionally loud.
Over at my house there’s a mockingbird who’s definitely lonely! Will he ever stop?
Birds of North America Online says: “Typically, adults sing for approximately three fourths of the year (Feb through Aug, and late Sep to early Nov); occasionally sing during winter. … No nocturnal song occurs during the fall.”
So we wear earplugs to bed and pray that the mockingbird finds a mate. Or we’ll have to wait until August.
Prothonotary warbler “stuck in a mirror” (screenshot from video by waterwarbler on Flickr)
I’ve seen robins, cardinals and mockingbirds attack car mirrors but never this!
Last Thursday waterwarbler captured video and photos of a prothonotary warbler fighting with his own reflection in DuPage County, Illinois. Click on the screenshot above to see the video. (Note: When another vehicle drives by the warbler is fine. He moves to the hood of the car.)
Now every morning we awake to birdsong. All the singers are male, right? Well … not really.
When I took a class on birdsong years ago I learned that female birds don’t sing. This information came from centuries of bird observations made in Europe and North America. Charles Darwin even used it to describe how song evolved in male birds to attract mates and compete for territory.