In our neighborhood, we have a very talented mockingbird. Its songs are very clever and indeed fool many a neighborhood cat in search of food. It even fooled me and our dog a few times, with its “UPS truck brakes” song — I went to the door thinking the brown truck had pulled up to our house, with the dog barking furiously for the same reason, only to see empty pavement. But a solitary bird was perched on the telephone wire. Yeah. It was the mockingbird.
Now, over the years, some of the songs have changed. We’ve heard the cell phone sound, car alarms, fire alarms, cat fights, raccoon chortles, and for a while, the sound of Angie’s clothesline. Our previous neighbor used to hang her wet clothes out on a squeaky old clothesline that had a particular and unique sound. Clever bird that it is, the mockingbird mimicked it perfectly, so much so that most of the time we’d have to look to see if Angie was actually out there or not. Now, long after Angie’s no longer living there, we still hear the sound, replicated to perfection by our resident mockingbird.
Most of the mockingbird’s songs are easily identifiable; they are commonly heard in our area. More and more, the sounds are electronically generated, which is kind of sad to notice, truth be told. I’d much rather hear more of the natural world played back by artists so clearly talented.
Every fall, before the birds migrate south, the mockingbird goes through its entire repertoire, often repeating the whole sequence several times. It can take a day or more. We aren’t sure why that happens, but our guess is that it’s teaching the songs to a younger generation. Or perhaps it’s some sort of annual ritual inscrutable to mere humans.
But you know what I wonder? Since the sound isn’t being produced any longer by anything other than the mockingbird, I wonder how long the melody will be sung, and who will remember that the original sound came from Angie’s yard after we leave? Only time will tell that tale and it’s the mockingbird clan’s lot to share it.