Mockingbirds: Versatile Voices in Plain Plumage

NorthernMockingbird-atop-pine.JimWedge-Audubon

NORTHERN  MOCKINGBIRD     ( photo: Jim Wedge / Audubon.org )

Mockingbirds: Versatile Voices in Plain Plumage

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.   (Ecclesiastes 10:20)

King Solomon warned us!  Some birds are like winged tape recorders, capable of imitating the speech of human voices, vocal calls of other birds, diverse sounds of construction equipment, and even the beeping noise of a clock alarm.  Parrots are so famous for repeating human speech that we use the word “parrot” as a metaphoric verb, for repeating what someone else says.

Mockingbird.RyanHagerty-USFWS
Northern Mockingbird   (photo credit: Ryan Hagerty / USF&WS)

The official state bird of Texas is a famous mimic, as its name suggests: MOCKINGBIRD.  (And, besides the special dignity of being the Lone Star State’s official songbird, the Northern Mockingbird is a special of Professor Ernie Carrasco!)

Despite its prosaic plumage, which combines only black, grey, and white (and thus misses out on all of the rainbow hues), the mundanely feathered Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottus) is nonetheless spectacular in its mimicry range of vocal versatility.  To illustrate, consider this report from Beth Clark, a Nevada resident, writing for BIRD & BLOOMS magazine:

‘BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP.’ My husband and I were participating in the Nevada Bird Count for the Great Basin Bird Observatory, when he started having problems with his new wristwatch timer. It kept beeping ahead of its programmed time.  I assumed [as many wives would have assumed, that] he just needed to read the instructions.  But after several frenzied attempts to fix the device, it turned out that a northern mockingbird was in the area.  The bird was perfectly imitating the sound and volume of the timer.

[Quoting Beth Clark, “Expert impersonators:  Sounds Aren’t Always What They Seem”, BIRDS & BLOOMS, April-May 2006 issue, page 49.]  Surely no one should be shocked to learn that a mockingbird is apt to “mock” sounds, as if it was a winged tape recorder.

Mockingbird-feeding-young.AmericanArtifacts

Mockingbird feeding nestling young  /  photo credit:  American Artifacts

Interestingly, it is only the male mockingbird that you should expect to hear during springtime or summer, as busy mockingbirds go about the business of nest-building, breeding, and taking care of their nestling young.  During autumn, however, both males and females sing their mimicking “songs” and sounds.  [See, accord, Donald Stokes, “Mockingbird”, A GUIDE TO BIRD BEHAVIOR, Volume I (Little, Brown & Company, 1979), page 187.]  Interestingly, mockingbird singing is influenced by the lunar cycle.

Northern Mockingbirds sing all through the day, and often into the night. Most nocturnal singers are unmated males, which sing more than mated males during the day, too. Nighttime singing is more common during the full moon. Northern Mockingbirds typically sing from February through August, and again from September to early November. A male may have two distinct repertoires of songs: one for spring and another for fall. The female Northern Mockingbird sings too, although usually more quietly than the male does. She rarely sings in the summer, and usually only when the male is away from the territory. She sings more in the fall, perhaps to establish a winter territory.

[Quoting Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s “All About Birds” article on mockingbirds.

Of course, other birds have the same ability.

Northern mockingbirds, gray catbirds and the thrasher family are the most common mimics in North America. The mockingbird is the most accomplished mimic of the group [called Mimidae].  Its imitations are executed so precisely that scientific analysis often can’t distinguish between the imitation and the original.

Mockingbirds can replicate the calls of up to 32 bird species as well as the sounds of [large] animals and insects, and a wide array of human noises. You might even hear mimics imitating birds you’ve never heard of.  Once mimics learn a phrase, they’ll use it throughout the year.  So they easily pick up new bird songs from their wintering grounds [JJSJ note: some mockingbirds migrate, while other are year-round residents  — see range map below].  In New Jersey, someone once heard a gray catbird mimicking a brown-crested flycatcher [vocalization] that it likely picked up in Central America.

[Quoting Beth Clark, “Expert impersonators”, BIRDS & BLOOMS, April-May 2006 issue, page 49.]

Mockingbird-Rangemap.Wikipedia

Northern Mockingbird range map   (image credit: Wikipedia)
YELLOW:  breeding range;   GREEN:  year-round residence range
[NOTE CONTRA:  Cornell Lab of Ornithology indicates a year-round range for all the lower 48!]

Of course, it’s not just mockingbirds that mock the sounds of other creatures and non-living noises.

Brown thrashers … can learn human words and phrases, and sage thrashers imitate a variety of natural sounds. The European starling is a phenomenal mimic.  In addition to the human voice and other man-made sounds, it will reproduce the sound of a woodpecker drumming.  I once heard a caged European starling that spoke clearly and sang several radio jingles with perfect pitch.  Jays, crows, Carolina wrens, shrikes and vireos also mimic other bird species.

[Quoting Beth Clark, “Expert impersonators”, BIRDS & BLOOMS, April-May 2006 issue, page 49.]

BrownThrasher-GarlandTX-ManjithKainickara

Brown Thrasher in Texas   (photo credit; Manjith Kainickara)

But how do these avian mimics replicate the sounds of others? They have a special vocal organ called a “syrinx”, a word derived from the Greek word σύριγξ – referring to musical reeds (i.e., “pan pipes”), which is the same root for our English word “syringe” (a reed/straw-like tube, used in medicine).

Birds make sounds in a different way than humans do. People vocalize by passing air across the vocal chords.  Birds, however, make sounds using their syrinx.  Birds are the only animals that have a syrinx, which is located in the windpipe, close to the lungs.  The muscles surrounding the syrinx allow the birds to control the sounds, much the way changing tension on a violin string alters the pitch.  They control the volume by changing the air pressure in their lungs.  Generally, the birds with the most muscles around their syrinx are the most varied [i.e., most versatile] vocalists.  For instance, while pigeons have a single pair of muscles [around the syrinx], catbirds and crows have seven to nine pairs.  Most songbirds have about five pairs.  That explains how a northern mockingbird tricked my husband into thinking his timer was broken, but the bird’s amazing array of impersonations remains mind-boggling.

[Quoting Beth Clark, “Expert impersonators”, BIRDS & BLOOMS, April-May 2006 issue, page 49.]

Syrinx-BirdAnatomy.Wikipedia-diagram

Schematic drawing of an avian syrinx

from Wikipedia’s “Syrinx (bird anatomy)” article.

  1. last free cartilaginous tracheal ring
  2. tympanum
  3. first group of syringeal rings
  4. pessulus
  5. membrane tympaniformis lateralis
  6. membrane tympaniformis medialis
  7. second group of syringeal rings
  8. main bronchus
  9. bronchial cartilage

Mockingbird-eating-winterberries.JonesNaturePreserve

Mockingbird eating winterberries    (photo credit: Jones Nature Preserve)

How can you attract hungry mockingbirds?  Don’t worry; northern mockingbirds aren’t “fussy” eaters. As omnivores, they will eat what is available:  insects (especially during summer, when beetles, ants, wasps, bees, butterflies, and moths are the mockingbirds’ main diet), earthworms, berries and other fruits (especially apples), tomatoes, seeds, and even lizards.  Some have even reported mockingbirds sipping sap from trees recently pruned.   [See Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s “All About Birds” article on mockingbirds, posted at https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Northern_Mockingbird/lifehistory .]

Mockingbird-harasses-RedShoulderedHawk-Floridaform.AllCreationSings

Mockingbird harasses Red-shouldered Hawk (Florida form)  /  photo credit:  All Creation Sings

Once a mockingbird established its home territory, watch out! Mockingbirds will guard their claimed turf with vim and vigor.

It is hard for a behavior-watcher to think of mockingbirds and not also think of territoriality, for this is undoubtedly the most prominent aspect of this bird’s behavior. Not only are its territories small, sharply defined, and aggressively defended, but they are also formed twice a year – once in spring for breeding and again in fall to protect a winter food source.  Add to this the fact that [mockingbirds] are partial to living in urban [and suburban] areas, and you undoubtedly have the best of our common birds in which to observe territorial behavior.

[Quoting Donald Stokes, “Mockingbird”, A GUIDE TO BIRD BEHAVIOR, Volume I (Little, Brown & Company, 1979), page 187.]

So, enjoy the varied vocalizations of your neighborhood’s mockingbirds, but respect their territorial “turf”, because they are seriously committed to homeland security!

Mockingbird-attacks-RedTailedHawk-flickr.com-photo

Mockingbird attacks Red-tailed Hawk   (photo credit: flickr.com)


 

 

Sunday Inspiration – Mockingbirds and Thrashers

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) By Dan'sPix

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) By Dan (Dan’sPix)

“Do not curse the king, even in your thought; Do not curse the rich, even in your bedroom; For a bird of the air may carry your voice, And a bird in flight may tell the matter.” (Ecclesiastes 10:20 NKJV)

Mockingbirds have been one of my favorite birds. They used to nest in a bush outside our bedroom when we lived in Fort Lauderdale, FL. He used to sing, sing, and sing when they had their young. Only problem was sometimes he sang at 2 or 3 in the morning (outside our bedroom). Those are the times when you wished birds observed “quite hours.”

When the doors are shut in the streets, And the sound of grinding is low; When one rises up at the sound of a bird, And all the daughters of music are brought low. (Ecclesiastes 12:4 NKJV)

Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) By Dan'sPix

Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) By Dan’sPix

That said, let’s look at our bird family this week. The Mimidae are the New World family of passerine birds that includes thrashers, mockingbirds, tremblers, and the New World catbirds. As their name (Latin for “mimic”) suggests, these birds are notable for their vocalization, especially some species’ remarkable ability to mimic a wide variety of birds and other sounds heard outdoors.

Brown Trembler (Cinclocerthia ruficauda) ©WikiC

Brown Trembler (Cinclocerthia ruficauda) ©WikiC

There are 34 birds in this family which includes thrashers, mockingbirds, tremblers, and the New World catbirds. They tend towards dull grays and browns in their appearance, though a few are black or blue-gray, and many have red, yellow, or white irises. Many mimids have a rather thrush-like pattern: brown above, pale with dark streaks or spots below. They tend to have longer tails than thrushes (or the bigger wrens, which they also resemble) and longer bills that in many species curve downward.

Grey Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) by Raymond Barlow

Grey Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) by Raymond Barlow

They have long, strong legs (for passerines) with which many species hop through undergrowth searching for arthropods and fruits to eat. Their habitat varies from forest undergrowth to scrub, high-altitude grasslands, and deserts. The two tremblers live in the atypical habitat of rain forests in the Lesser Antilles, and the Brown Trembler has the particularly atypical behavior of foraging while clinging to tree trunks. (With information from Wikipedia)

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At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. (John 14:20-21 KJV)

“I Am Loved” ~ Faith Baptist Orchestra

More Sunday Inspirations

Mimidae – Mockingbirds, Thrashers

Sharing The Gospel

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Songs In The Night From The Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) By Dan'sPix

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) By Dan

who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds of the heavens?’ (Job 35:11 ESV)

Orni-Theology

Orni-Theology

Recently.a friend was telling me about a bird that has been singing every night. He said that it begins around 3 AM and continues for hours. He was frustrated by the bird’s behavior. After discussing it, we came to the conclusion that it is a Northern Mockingbird. They have one with a nest in their yard.

We used to have one that had a nest in the bush outside our bedroom window when we lived in south Florida. Whenever the babies were born, our Mockingbird started its “songs in the night.” The songs are pleasant, but in the middle of the night, the urge to throw a pillow out the window sounds tempting.

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) Juvenile ©WikiC

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) Juvenile ©WikiC

Northern Mockingbirds are members of the Mimidae – Mockingbirds, Thrashers Family. They are the only Mockingbird in North America and are the state bird in Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas, and formerly the state bird of South Carolina. They are omnivore, meaning it eats fruits and insects.

The Northern Mockingbird is a medium-sized mimid that has long legs and tail. Both males and females look alike. Its upper parts are colored gray, while its underparts have a white or whitish-gray color. It has parallel wing bars on the half of the wings connected near the white patch giving it a distinctive appearance in flight. The iris is usually a light green-yellow or a yellow, but there have been instances of an orange color. The bill is black with a brownish black appearance at the base. The juvenile appearance is marked by its streaks on its back, distinguished spots and streaks on its chest, and a gray or grayish-green iris. Northern Mockingbirds measure from 8.1 to 11.0 in (20.5 to 28 cm) including a tail almost as long as its body.

Although many species of bird imitate the vocalizations of other birds, the Northern Mockingbird is the best known in North America for doing so. It imitates not only birds, but also other animals and mechanical sounds such as car alarms. As convincing as these imitations may be to humans, they often fail to fool other birds. (Wikipedia with editing)

Northern Mockingbird Viera Wetlands

Northern Mockingbird Viera Wetlands by Lee

What is interesting about the Bible verse above is that the verse has been used many times before, but I have not used the previous verse. Here are the two verses together.

But no one says, ‘Where is God my Maker, Who gives songs in the night, Who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth, And makes us wiser than the birds of heaven?’ (Job 35:10-11 NKJV)

God our Maker and the Lord our Savior gives us songs in the night when all is well. Apparently, the Mockingbird is happy or joyful as he sings his songs in the night. We can learn from the songster of the night.

Looking at other verses, what can cause us to not have songs in the night?

The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, And in the night His song shall be with me— A prayer to the God of my life. (Psalms 42:8 NKJV)

Are we praying and staying in communication with the Lord? When sin creeps in, the songs stop ringing out.

You shall have a song as in the night when a holy feast is kept, and gladness of heart, as when one sets out to the sound of the flute to go to the mountain of the LORD, to the Rock of Israel. (Isaiah 30:29 ESV)

When we have Communion, our pastor always asks us to make sure our fellowship with the Lord and others is clear. When all is straightened out, then we can have our “feast” (communion) with a clear forgiven spirit.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, (Acts 16:25 ESV)

Even when circumstances are not what we would like are we still “praying and singing hymns to God”?

Why we should sing night or day:

speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, (Ephesians 5:19 NKJV)

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Colossians 3:16-17 NKJV)

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Also:

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Green Catbird

 Green Catbird (Ailuroedus crassirostris) by Ian 1

Green Catbird (Ailuroedus crassirostris) by Ian 1

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Green Catbird ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 12/18/12

My trip to Sydney produced another bird on my wanted list that I had taken only poor photos of before, the Green Catbird. It’s not rare or, given its calls, hard to find in its favourite habitat of temperate and sub-tropical rainforest, but most birds apart from things like Brush-Turkeys are hard to photograph in rainforest. It’s call is not as one might expect a gentle miaowing but more like a cat being given an injection at the vets or those rude sounds make with balloons and as such, is one of the delights of east coast rainforest.

Australian Catbirds, unrelated to American Catbirds, are members of the Bowerbird family. Unlike their flamboyant cousins, they form pair-bonds and the males help in domestic chores like nest-building. So, eschewing wild mating behaviour, they don’t build wonderful bowers or collect flashy toys. Everything has its price, one supposes, but the call is some compensation. At 24-32cm/10-13in in length, they’re comparable in size to Satin Bowerbirds and, if silent in foliage, can be confused with female or immature members of that species.

Green Catbird (Ailuroedus crassirostris) by Ian 2

Green Catbird (Ailuroedus crassirostris) by Ian 2

The generic name Ailuroedus comes from the Greek ailouros for cat and odos for a singer, which is stretching the definition of singer slightly, but maybe singing embraces yodelling. The range of the Green Catbird extends from the south coast of New South Wales (Narooma) to near Gladstone on the central coast of Queensland. In tropical Queensland it is replaced by the very similar-looking and similar-sounding Spotted Catbird which featured as Bird of the Week in 2006 (below).

Green Catbird (Ailuroedus crassirostris) by Ian 3

Green Catbird (Ailuroedus crassirostris) by Ian 3

The ‘Spotted’ presumably refers to the stronger markings on the breast as the Green Catbird has more obvious white spots on the back (second photo) but the main difference is the darker markings on the face of the Spotted Catbird. As their ranges don’t overlap, distinguishing between them isn’t an issue. The Spotted Catbird extends from Paluma Range National Park, near Bluewater where I live to Cooktown and there is a separate population, recognised as a different race with darker face markings, on Cape York (e.g. Iron Range). In the past, both Green and Spotted were treated as a single species and some of the splitters would like to make the Cape York race a full species, another tick I suppose. There are other races of the Spotted in New Guinea and another species, the White-eared Catbird, A. buccoides.

Best wishes
Ian

**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Check the latest website updates:
http://www.birdway.com.au/#updates


Lee’s Addition:

The Green Catbird is part of the Ptilonorhynchidae – Bowerbirds Family which has three Catbirds, the White-eared Catbird (Ailuroedus buccoides), Green Catbird (Ailuroedus crassirostris) and the Spotted Catbird (Ailuroedus melanotis). Ian has the family as Australian Catbirds & Bowerbirds.

Dan and I were able to see a White-eared Catbird (Ailuroedus buccoides) this year at the Zoo Miami. Most of the time when I think of a Grey Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis), it is ours  which is in a completely different family. (Mimidae – Mockingbirds, Thrashers) The Black Catbird (Melanoptila glabrirostris) is also part of that family. The 6th Catbird, Abyssinian Catbird (Parophasma galinieri) is in yet another family (Sylviidae – Sylviid Babblers).

See more of Ian’s Bird of the Week adventures.

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Birds Vol 1 #6 – The Mocking Bird

Mockingbird for Birds Illustrated by Color Photography, 1897

Mockingbird for Birds Illustrated by Color Photography, 1897, From col. F. M. Woodruff.

Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited

Vol 1. June, 1897 No. 6

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THE MOCKING BIRD.

Some bright morning this month, you may hear a Robin’s song from a large tree near by. A Red Bird answers him and then the Oriole chimes in. I can see you looking around to find the birds that sing so sweetly. All this time a gay bird sits among the green leaves and laughs at you as you try to find three birds when only one is there.

It is the Mocking Bird or Mocker, and it is he who has been fooling you with his song. Nature has given him lots of music and gifted him with the power of imitating the songs of other birds and sounds of other animals.

He is certainly the sweetest of our song birds. The English Nightingale alone is his rival. I think, however, if our Mocker could hear the Nightingale’s song, he could learn it.

The Mocking Bird is another of our Thrushes. By this time you have surely made up your minds that the Thrushes are sweet singers.

The Mocker seems to take delight in fooling people. One gentleman while sitting on his porch heard what he thought to be a young bird in distress. He went in the direction of the sound and soon heard the same cry behind him. He turned and went back toward the porch, when he heard it in another direction. Soon he found out that Mr. Mocking Bird had been fooling him, and was flying about from shrub to shrub making that sound.

His nest is carelessly made of almost anything he can find. The small, bluish-green eggs are much like the Catbird’s eggs.

Little Mocking Birds look very much like the young of other Thrushes, and do not become Mockers like their parents, until they are full grown.

Which one of the other Thrushes that you have seen in Birds does the Mocking Bird resemble?

He is the only Thrush that sings while on the wing. All of the others sing only while perching.

THE MOCKING BIRD.

imgt

HE Mocking Bird is regarded as the chief of songsters, for in addition to his remarkable powers of imitation, he is without a rival in variety of notes. The Brown Thrasher is thought by many to have a sweeter song, and one equally vigorous, but there is a bold brilliancy in the performance of the Mocker that is peculiarly his own, and which has made him par excellence the forest extemporizer of vocal melody. About this of course there will always be a difference of opinion, as in the case of the human melodists.

So well known are the habits and characteristics of the Mocking Bird that nearly all that could be written about him would be but a repetition of what has been previously said. In Illinois, as in many other states, its distribution is very irregular, its absence from some localities which seem in every way suited being very difficult to account for. Thus, according to “Birds of Illinois,” while one or two pairs breed in the outskirts of Mount Carmel nearly every season, it is nowhere in that vicinity a common bird. A few miles further north, however, it has been found almost abundant. On one occasion, during a three mile drive from town, six males were seen and heard singing along the roadside. Mr. H. K. Coale says that he saw a mocking bird in Stark county, Indiana, sixty miles southeast of Chicago, January 1, 1884; that Mr. Green Smith had met with it at Kensington Station, Illinois, and that several have been observed in the parks and door-yards of Chicago. In the extreme southern portion of the state the species is abundant, and is resident through the year.

The Mocking Bird does not properly belong among the birds of the middle or eastern states, but as there are many records of its nesting in these latitudes it is thought to be safe to include it. Mrs. Osgood Wright states that individuals have often been seen in the city parks of the east, one having lived in Central Park, New York city, late into the winter, throughout a cold and extreme season. They have reared their young as far north as Arlington, near Boston, where they are noted, however, as rare summer residents. Dr. J. A. Allen, editor of The Auk, notes that they occasionally nest in the Connecticut Valley.

The Mocking Bird has a habit of singing and fluttering in the middle of the night, and in different individuals the song varies, as is noted of many birds, particularly canaries. The song is a natural love song, a rich dreamy melody. The mocking song is imitative of the notes of all the birds of field, forest, and garden, broken into fragments.

The Mocker’s nest is loosely made of leaves and grass, rags, feathers, etc., plain and comfortable. It is never far from the ground. The eggs are four to six, bluish green, spattered with shades of brown.

Wilson’s description of the Mocking Bird’s song will probably never be surpassed: “With expanded wings and tail glistening with white, and the bouyant gayety of his action arresting the eye, as his song does most irresistably the ear, he sweeps around with enthusiastic ecstasy, and mounts and descends as his song swells or dies away. And he often deceives the sportsman, and sends him in search of birds that are not perhaps within miles of him, but whose notes he exactly imitates.”

Very useful is he, eating large spiders and grasshoppers, and the destructive cottonworm.

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) By Dan'sPix

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) By Dan’sPix


Lee’s Addition:

Even in your thoughts, do not curse the king, nor in your bedroom curse the rich, for a bird of the air will carry your voice, or some winged creature tell the matter. (Ecclesiastes 10:20 ESV)

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. (Galatians 6:7 KJV)

Mockingbirds belong to the Mimidae – Mockingbirds, Thrashers Family and are a passerine or perching bird. The name says alot about the bird because it is known to copy or mimic other birds and sounds.  Up to 200 songs have been learned by some. They can also drive you crazy when they sing outside your bedroom window at 3 AM. When they have young, they love to sing. At least the one outside our window did. It is our State Bird here in Florida. Other states, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas also claim them as their State Bird.

Mockingbirds are medium sized and have “Mockingbirds have small heads, a long, thin bill with a hint of a downward curve, and long legs. Their wings are short, rounded, and broad, making the tail seem particularly long in flight.” (All About Birds)

Northern Mockingbird males establish a nesting territory in early February. If a female enters his territory, the male will pursue the female with initial aggressive calls and, if she becomes interested, with softer calls. Once the pair is established, their song becomes more gentle. Northern Mockingbirds tend to be monogamous, and the female may return to the same male from the previous season.

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) eggs ©WikiC

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) eggs ©WikiC

Both the male and female are involved in the nest building. The male does most of the work, while the female perches on the shrub or tree where the nest is being built to watch for predators. The nest is built approximately three to 10 feet above the ground. The outer part of the nest is composed of twigs, while the inner part is lined with grasses, dead leaves, moss or artificial fibers. The eggs are a light blue or greenish color and speckled with dots.] Three to five eggs are laid by the female, and she incubates them for nearly two weeks. Once the eggs are hatched, both the male and female feed the chicks.

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) Juvenile ©WikiC

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) Juvenile ©WikiC

The birds aggressively defend their nest and surrounding area against other birds and animals. When a predator is persistent, mockingbirds from neighboring territories, summoned by a distinct call, may join the attack. Other birds may gather to watch as the mockingbirds harass the intruder. In addition to harassing domestic cats and dogs they consider a threat, it is not unheard of for mockingbirds to target humans. They are absolutely unafraid and will attack much larger birds, even hawks. One famous incident in Tulsa, Oklahoma involving a postal carrier resulted in the distribution of a warning letter to residents.

Birds Illustrated by Color Photograhy Vol 1 June, 1897 No 6 - Cover

Birds Illustrated by Color Photograhy Vol 1 June, 1897 No 6 – Cover

Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited – Introduction

The above article is the first article in the monthly serial that was started in January 1897 “designed to promote Knowledge of Bird-Live.” These include Color Photography, as they call them, today they are drawings. There are at least three Volumes that have been digitized by Project Gutenberg.

To see the whole series of – Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited

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(Information from Wikipedia and other internet sources)

Next Article – The Black-Crowned Night Heron

Previous Article – The Yellow-throated Vireo

ABC’s Of The Gospel

Links:

Mimidae – Mockingbirds, Thrashers Family

Northern Mockingbird – Wikipedia

Northern Mockingbird – All About Birds

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Birds Vol 1 #5 – The American Catbird

American Catbird for Birds Illustrated by Color Photography, 1897

American Catbird for Birds Illustrated by Color Photography, 1897

Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited

Vol 1. May, 1897 No. 5

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THE AMERICAN CATBIRD.

imgt

HE CATBIRD derives his name from a fancied resemblance of some of his notes to the mew of the domestic cat. He is a native of America, and is one of the most familiarly known of our famous songsters. He is a true thrush, and is one of the most affectionate of our birds. Wilson has well described his nature, as follows:

“In passing through the woods in summer I have sometimes amused myself with imitating the violent chirping or clucking of young birds, in order to observe what different species were round me; for such sounds at such a season in the woods are no less alarming to the feathered tenants of the bushes than the cry of fire or murder in the street is to the inhabitants of a large city. On such occasion of alarm and consternation, the Catbird is first to make his appearance, not single but sometimes half a dozen at a time, flying from different quarters to the spot. At this time those who are disposed to play on his feelings may almost throw him into a fit, his emotion and agitation are so great at what he supposes to be the distressful cries of his young. He hurries backward and forward, with hanging wings, open mouth, calling out louder and faster, and actually screaming with distress, until he appears hoarse with his exertions. He attempts no offensive means, but he wails, he implores, in the most pathetic terms with which nature has supplied him, and with an agony of feeling which is truly affecting. At any other season the most perfect imitations have no effect whatever on him.”

The Catbird is a courageous little creature, and in defense of its young it is so bold that it will contrive to drive away any snake that may approach its nest, snakes being its special aversion. His voice is mellow and rich, and is a compound of many of the gentle trills and sweet undulations of our various woodland choristers, delivered with apparent caution, and with all the attention and softness necessary to enable the performer to please the ear of his mate. Each cadence passes on without faltering and you are sure to recognize the song he so sweetly imitates. While they are are all good singers, occasionally there is one which excels all his neighbors, as is frequently the case among canaries.

The Catbird builds in syringa bushes, and other shrubs. In New England he is best known as a garden bird. Mabel Osgood Wright, in “Birdcraft,” says: “I have found it nesting in all sorts of places, from an alder bush, overhanging a lonely brook, to a scrub apple in an open field, never in deep woods, and it is only in its garden home, and in the hedging bushes of an adjoining field, that it develops its best qualities—‘lets itself out,’ so to speak. The Catbirds in the garden are so tame that they will frequently perch on the edge of the hammock in which I am sitting, and when I move they only hop away a few feet with a little flutter. The male is undoubtedly a mocker, when he so desires, but he has an individual and most delightful song, filled with unexpected turns and buoyant melody.”


THE CATBIRD.

What do you think of this nest of eggs? What do you suppose Mrs. Catbird’s thoughts are as she looks at them so tenderly? Don’t you think she was very kind to let me take the nest out of the hedge where I found it, so you could see the pretty greenish blue eggs? I shall place it back where I got it. Catbirds usually build their nests in hedges, briars, or bushes, so they are never very high from the ground.

Did you ever hear the Catbird sing? He is one of the sweetest singers and his song is something like his cousin’s, the Brown Thrush, only not so loud.

He can imitate the songs of other birds and the sounds of many animals. He can mew like a cat, and it is for this reason that he is called “Catbird.” His sweetest song, though, is soft and mellow and is sung at just such times as this—when thinking of the nest, the eggs, or the young.

The Catbird is a good neighbor among birds. If any other bird is in trouble of any sort, he will do all he can to relieve it. He will even feed and care for little birds whose parents have left them. Don’t you think he ought to have a prettier name? Now remember, the Catbird is a Thrush. I want you to keep track of all the Thrushes as they appear in “Birds.” I shall try to show you a Thrush each month.

Next month you shall see the sweetest singer of American birds. He, too, is a Thrush. I wonder if you know what bird I mean. Ask your mamma to buy you a book called “Bird Ways.” It was written by a lady who spent years watching and studying birds. She tells so many cute things about the Catbird.

Grey Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) by Africaddict

Grey Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) by Africaddict


Lee’s Addition:

He sends the springs into the valleys; They flow among the hills. They give drink to every beast of the field; The wild donkeys quench their thirst. By them the birds of the heavens have their home; They sing among the branches. (Psalms 104:10-12 NKJV)

The Grey Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) is in the Mockingbirds, Thrashers – Mimidae Family. We have managed to see them occasionally, but most times you are more apt to hear them than to see them.

Scolding call and a song of a Catbird, both from xeno-canto.org

Sound of its song.

The Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis), also spelled Grey Catbird, is a medium-sized northern American perching bird of the mimid family. It is the only member of the “catbird” genus Dumetella. Like the Black Catbird (Melanoptila glabrirostris), it is among the basal lineages of the Mimidae, probably a closer relative of the Caribbean thrasher and trembler assemblage than of the mockingbirds and Toxostoma thrashers. In some areas it is known as the Slate-colored Mockingbird.

Grey Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) by Raymond Barlow

Grey Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) by Raymond Barlow

Adults weigh around 35–40 g (1.2–1.4 oz) and are plain lead gray almost all over. The top of the head is darker. The undertail coverts are rust-colored and the remiges and rectrices are black, some with white borders. The slim bill, the eyes, and the legs and feet are also blackish. Males and females cannot be distinguished by their looks; different behaviours in the breeding season is usually the only clue to the observer. Juveniles are even plainer in coloration, with buffy undertail coverts.

Birds Illustrated by Color Photograhy Vol 1 May, 1897 No 5 - Cover

Birds Illustrated by Color Photograhy Vol 1 May, 1897 No 5 – Cover

Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited – Introduction

The above article is the first article in the monthly serial that was started in January 1897 “designed to promote Knowledge of Bird-Live.” These include Color Photography, as they call them, today they are drawings. There are at least three Volumes that have been digitized by Project Gutenberg.

To see the whole series of – Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited

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(Information from Wikipedia and other internet sources)

Next Article – Bird Song

Previous Article – The Wood Thrush

ABC’s Of The Gospel

Links:

Gray Catbird – All About Birds – Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Gray Catbird – Dumetella carolinensis – USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter

Gray Catbird Information and Photos – South Dakota Birds and Birding

Gray or Grey Catbird – Wikipedia

Mockingbirds, Thrashers – Mimidae Family

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Ad for Birds Illustrated by Color Photography 1897

Ad for Birds Illustrated by Color Photography 1897

Birds Vol 1 #3 – The Brown Thrush (Thrasher)

Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum)

Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) – Birds Illustrated

Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited

Vol 1. March, 1897 No. 3

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THE BROWN THRUSH.

“However the world goes ill,
The Thrushes still sing in it.”


imgt

HE Mocking-bird of the North, as the Brown Thrush (Brown Thrasher today) has been called, arrives in the Eastern and Middle States about the 10th of May, at which season he may be seen, perched on the highest twig of a hedge, or on the topmost branch of a tree, singing his loud and welcome song, that may be heard a distance of half a mile. The favorite haunt of the Brown Thrush, however, is amongst the bright and glossy foliage of the evergreens. “There they delight to hide, although not so shy and retiring as the Blackbird; there they build their nests in greatest numbers, amongst the perennial foliage, and there they draw at nightfall to repose in warmth and safety.” The Brown Thrasher sings chiefly just after sunrise and before sunset, but may be heard singing at intervals during the day. His food consists of wild fruits, such as blackberries and raspberries, snails, worms, slugs and grubs. He also obtains much of his food amongst the withered leaves and marshy places of the woods and shrubberies which he frequents. Few birds possess a more varied melody. His notes are almost endless in variety, each note seemingly uttered at the caprice of the bird, without any perceptible approach to order.

The site of the Thrush’s nest is a varied one, in the hedgerows, under a fallen tree or fence-rail; far up in the branches of stately trees, or amongst the ivy growing up their trunks. The nest is composed of the small dead twigs of trees, lined with the fine fibers of roots. From three to five eggs are deposited, and are hatched in about twelve days. They have a greenish background, thickly spotted with light brown, giving the whole egg a brownish appearance.

The Brown Thrush leaves the Eastern and Middle States, on his migration South, late in September, remaining until the following May.


THE THRUSH’S NEST.

“Within a thick and spreading hawthorn bush
That overhung a molehill, large and round,
I heard from morn to morn a merry thrush
Sing hymns of rapture while I drank the sound
With joy—and oft an unintruding guest,
I watched her secret toils from day to day;
How true she warped the moss to form her nest,
And modeled it within with wood and clay.
And by and by, with heath-bells gilt with dew,
There lay her shining eggs as bright as flowers,
Ink-spotted over, shells of green and blue:
And there I witnessed, in the summer hours,
A brood of nature’s minstrels chirp and fly,
Glad as the sunshine and the laughing sky.”


THE BROWN THRUSH.

Dear Readers:

My cousin Robin Redbreast told me that he wrote you a letter last month and sent it with his picture. How did you like it? He is a pretty bird—Cousin Robin—and everybody likes him. But I must tell you something of myself.

Folks call me by different names—some of them nicknames, too.

The cutest one of all is Brown Thrasher. I wonder if you know why they call me Thrasher. If you don’t, ask some one. It is really funny.

Some people think Cousin Robin is the sweetest singer of our family, but a great many like my song just as well.

Early in the morning I sing among the bushes, but later in the day you will always find me in the very top of a tree and it is then I sing my best.

Do you know what I say in my song? Well, if I am near a farmer while he is planting, I say: “Drop it, drop it—cover it up, cover it up—pull it up, pull it up, pull it up.”

One thing I very seldom do and that is, sing when near my nest. Maybe you can tell why. I’m not very far from my nest now. I just came down to the stream to get a drink and am watching that boy on the other side of the stream. Do you see him?

One dear lady who loves birds has said some very nice things about me in a book called “Bird Ways.” Another lady has written a beautiful poem about my singing. Ask your mamma or teacher the names of these ladies. Here is the poem:

There’s a merry brown thrush sitting up in a tree.
He is singing to me! He is singing to me!
And what does he say—little girl, little boy?
“Oh, the world’s running over with joy!
Hush! Look! In my tree,
I am as happy as happy can be.”

And the brown thrush keeps singing, “A nest, do you see,
And five eggs, hid by me in the big cherry tree?
Don’t meddle, don’t touch—little girl, little boy—
Or the world will lose some of its joy!
Now I am glad! now I am free!
And I always shall be,
If you never bring sorrow to me.”

So the merry brown thrush sings away in the tree
To you and to me—to you and to me;
And he sings all the day—little girl, little boy—
“Oh, the world’s running over with joy!
But long it won’t be,
Don’t you know? don’t you see?
Unless we’re good as good can be.”

Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) By Dan'sPix

Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) By Dan’sPix


Lee’s Addition:

The Brown Thrush mentioned in this article is now known as the Brown Thrasher. They are members of the Mimidae – Mockingbirds, Thrashers Family. The family not only has the Thrashers (14) and Mockingbirds (16), but also Catbirds (2) and Tremblers (2).

The Brown Thrasher is bright reddish-brown above with thin, dark streaks on its buffy underparts. Its long, rufous tail is rounded with paler corners, and eyes are a brilliant gold. Adults average about 11.5 in (29 cm) long with a wingspan of 13 in (33 cm), and weigh 2.4 oz (68 g).

It is found in thickets and dense brush, often searching for food in dry leaves on the ground. It also enjoys the convergence of mowed to unmowed lawns, particularly if there are ample shrubs or shrubby trees, i.e., fruit orchards that the undergrowth is left undisturbed. It also enjoys perennial gardens and can be seen jumping from the ground to catch insects on flowers and foliage. Its breeding range includes the United States and Canada east of the Rocky Mountains. It is a partial migrant, with northern birds wintering in the southern USA, where it occurs throughout the year.

The female lays 3 to 5 eggs in a twiggy nest lined with grass. The nest is built in a dense shrub or low in a tree. Both parents incubate and feed the young. These birds raise two or three broods in a year. They are able to call in up to 3000 distinct songs. The male sings a series of short repeated melodious phrases from an open perch to defend his territory and is also very aggressive in defending the nest.

Brown Thrasher by Chris Parrish

The Brown Thrasher is the official state bird of Georgia, and was the inspiration for the name of Atlanta’s former National Hockey League team, the Atlanta Thrashers.(Wikipedia)

Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) ©WikiC

Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) ©WikiC

The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; (Song of Solomon 2:12 KJV)

Birds Illustrated by Color Photograhy Vol 1 March 1897 No 3 - Cover

Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited – Introduction

The above article is the first article in the monthly serial for February 1897 “designed to promote Knowledge of Bird-Live.” These include Color Photography, as they call them, today they are drawings. There are at least three Volumes that have been digitized by Project Gutenberg.

To see the whole series of – Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited

*

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(Information from Wikipedia and other internet sources)

Next Article – The Japan Pheasant

Previous Article – The Swallow

ABC’s of the Gospel

Links:

Brown Thrasher – Wikipedia

Wood Thrush – WhatBird

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Brown Thrasher – The Singing Assasin..

Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) By Dan'sPix

Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) By Dan'sPix

Brown Thrasher – The Singing Assasin.. ~ by a j mithra

The Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum), sometimes erroneously called the Brown Thrush, is a bird in the Mimidae family, a group that also includes the New World catbirds and mockingbirds.

The Brown Thrasher is bright reddish-brown above with thin, dark streaks on its buffy underparts. Its long rufous tail is rounded with paler corners. Eyes are a brilliant gold.

  • God had created gold colored eyes for these birds but sadly most church goers have set their eyes on gold…
  • Achan set his eyes on gold and was stoned to death…
  • If the church had followed the same law, there would have been more requisition letters for death certificates than for birth certificates…

Let us set our eyes on our glorious God…

Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. (Colossians 3:2)

Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) ©DanPancamo

Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) ©DanPancamo

Adults average about 11.5 in (29 cm) long with a wingspan of 13 in (33 cm), and have an average mass of 2.4 oz (68 g). It is found in thickets and dense brush, often searching for food in dry leaves on the ground. Thrashers also enjoy the convergence of mowed to unmowed lawns, particularly if there are ample shrubs or shrubby trees, i.e., fruit orchards that the undergrowth is left undisturbed. It also enjoys perennial gardens and can be seen jumping from the ground to catch insects on flowers and foliage.

It is a partial migrant, with northern birds wintering in the southern USA, where it occurs throughout the year. The Brown Thrasher is considered a short-distance migrant, but two individuals have been recorded of this unlikely transatlantic vagrant in Europe: one in England and another in Germany.

This bird is omnivorous, eating insects, berries, nuts and seeds, as well as earthworms, snails, and sometimes lizards.

The Brown Thrasher is the official state bird of Georgia, and the inspiration for the name of Atlanta’s National Hockey League team, the Atlanta Thrashers

  • We are the official worshippers of the God who created heaven and earth….

This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise. (Isaiah 43:21)

Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) by Judd Patterson

Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) by Judd Patterson

Its breeding range includes the United States and Canada east of the Rocky Mountains. The female lays 3 to 5 eggs in a twiggy nest lined with grass. The nest is built in a dense shrub or low in a tree. Both parents incubate and feed the young. These birds raise two or three broods in a year. Brown Thrashers leave the nest at only 9 to 13 days old, earlier than either of its smaller relatives, the Northern Mockingbird or Gray Catbird. Brown Thrasher likes to bath in the water and in the sand of the roads. It bathes in small paddles during the heat of the sun, and removes to the sandy paths to roll it, for drying its plumage and freeing it of insects.

They are able to call in up to 3000 distinct songs. The male sings a series of short repeated melodious phrases from an open perch to defend his territory and an aggressive defender of its nest, the Brown Thrasher is known to strike people and dogs hard enough to draw blood.

Brown Thrasher songs by xeno-canto

Brown Thrasher singing – Video

  • These birds exercise their singing talent to defend its territories..
  • God has created us to sing for His glory….
  • How, when and why do we exercise our singing?
  • It hurts to see Christian names use this talent to make money than to please God..
  • If not for their singing talent, they would’ve been discarded even by their own house hold…
  • If only the church could learn from these tiny birds to defend their territory, there would be more people singing for God than for money…

Remember, these birds sing about 3000 song…

  • Is it not a shame that we, whom God created to worship Him, don’t even sing a dozen a day?

But, still God chose to die for us and not for these birds,

I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together. (Psalm 34:1-3)

Well, at least from now on rain or shine let us just sing, sing and sing all through our lives for the One who gave His life..

We don’t even have to strike the predator like how these birds do. Instead, just keep singing, as our singing has the power to bring God down from His throne and His presence would turn satan, the predator into a prey…

Hallelujah!

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)

Yours in YESHUA,
a j mithra

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ajmithra21

A j’s other articles – Click Here

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