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This bird’s name is well-deserved

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The Northern Mockingbird can mimic sons from about 30 different species.

By Sharon Warner

This is one of my favorite birds, and the major reason because it is well known in the bird world as the "King of Song."

It is the very best of the mockers and can duplicate the songs of at least 30 different bird species in rapid succession. Each phrase of the songs can be repeated two to six times, but it is usually three times.

Add to this a variety of sounds from whistles to barks, and you may even hear the tinkling sound of a piano or the sound of a squeaky hinge.

One serious concern, that I have, is with it becoming almost impossible to find a place in the lower 48 states, that a human-made sound is not heard every few seconds. What does the future hold for the songs emitted by the Northern Mockingbird?

Then when you take into consideration that many bird species are diminishing in numbers so rapidly, we must fully enjoy the current song list and hope for the best in the future.

This 10-inch-long bird with a 14-inch-long wingspan is so popular, that it has become the state bird of Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas. It is pale gray above, whitish below, with white, conspicuous wing-patches and white sides along its long tail and also has a thin dark eye-line.

The Northern Mockingbird vigorously defends a wide territory, especially during breeding and nesting season. These birds are known for dive-bombing grass mowers when they mow too close to their existing nests.

They, however, reduce the size of these territories in winter to large, berry-producing holly trees, along with other berry-producing trees.

I once had a Washington Hawthorn tree at my previous home in Fieldstone Acres in Shelby County that each winter was covered with berries, which apparently tasted their best in the month of February. That was always the month that a flock of beautiful cedar waxwings would attempt to adopt all of the berries on that particular tree for themselves.

They certainly kept one Northern Mockingbird extremely busy, because he or she thought the waxwings were invaders. It was always a losing proposition, because the mockingbird was just overwhelmed by the numbers in the flock.

In the summer, the Northern Mockingbird changes its diet to include a huge number of harmful insect pests.

Their nesting begins in late March and may last until late July, if two broods are produced. The nest is placed 3 to 10 feet above the ground.

It is bulky with a loosely laid outer layer of thorny twigs with an inner layer of dry leaves, plant stems, moss and hair, with a lining of brown rootlets.

The male places the material in possible nest sites as a courtship behavior. The female chooses the actual nest location, but both sexes perform the construction.

If two broods are raised, a new nest usually will be built. About three to five eggs are laid, and the female alone incubates the eggs for 12 or 13 days. The young will then leave the nest in another 10 to 12 days.

"The King" is always at his best at the height of the love season, when the singer flutters high into the air, from some tall chimney or treetop, then slowly floats down while uttering sweet music for all he's worth.

Sometimes, during this wonderful, glorious season on moonlit nights, one can even hear the "King of the Bird Singers" adding his charm to the night in The Great Outdoors.

 

To read more columns about birds by Horace Brown, visit www.SentinelNews.com/recreation. Horace Brown is a civil/sanitary engineer, land surveyor and nature photographer and writer. To contact him or order a copy of Brown’s 2012 Holey Birds Calendar, E-mail whbrownpelpls@aol.com, call 502-682-7711 or write 527 Main Street, Shelbyville 40065.