The Bird Who Sings All Night

Northern mockingbird, singing with wing flash (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
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.


(photo from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original. Mockingbird audio by SevereTStormFan on YouTube)

9 thoughts on “The Bird Who Sings All Night

  1. This brings back memories of waiting to catch a bus from Swissvale to Pitt at 4:40am while in nursing school years ago. On those cold dark winter mornings it was me and the lovely song of a mockingbird. He sat on top of a light pole next to the busway. Pure serenity in preparation for a hectic day.
    He or his offspring have made my neighborhood their home. They love the mulberries! I love the mockingbirds!

  2. Oh my, the same thing happened to me about 2 weeks ago! It had me puzzled! It sang all night and like you said, it was a different tune everytime. Thanks for clearing up the mystery. He finally moved on to another neighborhood.

  3. Years ago, before cell phone videos, we had a mockingbird in our neighborhood who could do a perfect rendering of the first 8 notes of the theme from “the Sting”. People would wonder why that stupid ice cream truck was out there at 2:00 A.M.

  4. I wish I had a mocking bird near my house. That wouldn’t bother me in the least – in fact its kind of relaxing. At times it sounds like spring peeper frogs that I listened to all the while I was growing up.

  5. Up early one summer morning here in San Francisco I had the pleasure of being serenaded by both foghorns– did I mention that it was “summer” in San Francisco?– and a mockingbird. It was beautiful.

  6. What is the who sings at night when it sees someone, in our country it is called “did you see it,” because that is what it says.

  7. Hi! a mocking bird comes to my kitchen windowsill in Brooklyn — I live on the third floor of a tenement and it comes to the fire escape where I feed cracker crumbs to birds of the backyards—there are bluebirds and their babies, starlings, doves, common sparrows, a small black bird with a white belly (?) and a cardinal couple, but they never come to my windowsill. The problem is that the mockingbird, who now answers to the name Pepino, has chased all the other birds away, he keeps watch and swoops down whenever he sees any near the crumbs. I am sorry, especially for the baby bluebirds. Is there anything I can do? It’s a small fire escape, so I can’t set up separate feeding spaces.

    1. What you’re seeing is a personality trait of northern mockingbirds which all the other birds know about. They move away, watch and wait for him to leave. If he is there during spring/summer (you mention baby birds) then he has included your fire escape as part of his nesting territory and will dive-bomb everything including humans to keep them away, too. If this happened during winter, he *might* be from an area further north and just visiting for the winter — in which case he will leave in March/April for his nesting territory. Since you don’t have other spaces to draw him away he will be there for as long as he wants to be. The good news is that he is very interesting to watch.

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