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.
The flowers are ahead of schedule and so are some migratory birds. This week in Schenley Park I found four new arrivals.
Brown creepers (Certhia americana) spend the winter in the central and southern U.S. so they know about our warm weather and can decide to migrate early. I saw several brown creepers and heard their high pitched, squeaky song along the Bridle Trail on Thursday.
Two very tiny birds, smaller than chickadees, arrived on Tuesday. It’s unusual to see them together.
Golden-crowned kinglets (Regulus satrapa), at left below, have a winter range similar to the brown creeper’s and usually migrate through before their ruby-crowned cousins show up. I found both birds on March 29 when I heard the ruby-crowned kinglet singing “Stay away!” as the golden-crowned chased him. I’ve never seen these two species fighting!
Golden-crowned kinglet (photo by Steve Gosser)
Ruby-crowned kinglet (photo by Steve Gosser)
Ruby-crowned kinglets (Regulus calendula) spend the winter in the southern U.S. and even in eastern Pennsylvania but they’re a big deal here. An appearance on March 29 is two weeks earlier than I expect them.
Here’s the ruby’s song and, at the end, the “chack” he makes when annoyed.
On Tuesday I heard a lone chipping sparrow (Spizella passerina) along the Bridle Trail but couldn’t find him for two days. He was hanging out with a flock of dark-eyed juncoes. Bob Machesney says that in the North Hills the dark-eyed juncoes are gone before the chipping sparrows arrive. This solo bird isn’t playing by the rules. 😉
Chipping sparrow in May (photo by Steve Gosser)
Here’s the chipping sparrow’s song:
Watch for the first three birds in the days ahead. Only the chipping sparrow will stay to nest in Schenley Park.