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Listening to the Mockingbord

I’ve always liked Mockingbirds. They’re winsome little souls with a lot of personality and their song sweetens the springtime air. Their bold, striped wings easily identify them. They show these stripes with a weird little two-step motion when they do their mating dance.

The bird is noisy and feisty when bravely battling snakes, mammals and birds of prey that intrude in their territory. They will harangue them relentlessly until satisfied the interlopers have crept or flown from the area.

Mockingbirds (Mimus polyglottos)occur coast to coast in the southern half of North America and are so well liked in the U.S. South they have been named the official state bird of Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas. They have inspired many a southern songwriter.

They are great mimics, sort of like Mynah birds, but only remember short snippets of other bird’s songs and even do sounds made by insects and barking dogs. They string these together into a long pattern they eventually repeat. I once observed one spend an hour perched atop a phone pole, endlessly singing his heart out, reeling off one riff after another in a long improvisational song as complex, ardent and inscrutable as a Jimi Hendrix guitar solo.

The other day I thought I heard a hawk keening above the trees but all I could see up there was a Mocking bird. It turns out they can do that too - mimic hawks. (He sounded like a pretty lightweight hawk). I had to laugh, this particular talent must come in pretty handy when they want to scare the Bejesus out of the other small animals in the neighborhood.

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