I hosted a little July 4 cookout yesterday, and as we were all sitting around the back porch I kept noticing unusual bird action under the azaleas next to the well house. By the end of the evening I had pretty well figured out there were baby birds involved—baby mockingbirds.
If there is any bird I associate with the farm, it’s a mockingbird. When I first moved in, I was dive-bombed and attacked by a mockingbird that had taken advantage of the abandoned property and nested in the quince by my mailbox. We had a discussion, and agreed to keep the peace. However, our detente didn’t stop any number of mockingbirds from calling all day long around the farm. They even call at night in the spring, waking me at three a.m. through open windows. Instead of being annoyed, I chose to accept and enjoy the soundtrack to life in the wilderness.
I grew to appreciate these birds more when I learned a bit about them. They were Thomas Jefferson’s favorite birds, and prized for their wide and varied song repertoire, which they add to throughout their lives. They can live to be older than a decade, and a male mockingbird can learn up to 200 songs in his lifetime. Because of their songs, mockingbirds were once prized as pets, and in the nineteenth century nearly became extinct on the East coast because of people catching them for cage birds. Even though their numbers are no longer considered threatened, they are declining.
Which is why I was thrilled to look out the kitchen window this morning and see a mockingbird swoop down as two other birds ran out from under the shadows of the azaleas. I grabbed my camera and ran out on the porch to catch this:
Two fledglings charged at their parent, beaks open and begging. I found it hilarious that even as chicks these birds exhibited the fearless, assertive character and stance that I’ve come to admire in adult mockingbirds.
The parent fed the more self-assured chick first…
And then turned to its sibling.
The parent then took off, just as its offspring caught wind of me and got wary, diving back under the bushes.
It was just a half-second encounter, but one of the neatest I’ve had around here. This brings the total number of bird species that I have seen reproduce in my yard this spring to five: bluebirds, cardinals, sparrows, wrens, and now mockingbirds. Sometimes it feels like I am living in a Disney movie, and I love it.