Last Updated on January 23, 2022 by Fabiola L.
Do you often wonder how many sounds can a mockingbird make? If you’re the same, then go through our article for your answer!
Living in a mockingbird’s range can be quite an experience. You might occasionally hear a cacophony of birds beyond your window but spot none. Don’t worry – you’re not hearing things; it’s likely just a mocker’s solo concert.
The mockingbird is a medium-sized songbird known for its limitless vocal stamina. Its slender body sports a small head with a thin, long bill. The bird’s rounded wings are short in comparison to its long tail. Mockingbirds may look like regular birdies, but you’ll be surprised to find out how complex these birdies truly are.
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What Kind Of Sounds Can A Mockingbird Make?
A mockingbird enjoys basking in the spotlight. It can sing day and night—sometimes even past midnight! So, what sound does a mockingbird make? Though they have songs of their own, mockingbirds like to mimic a wide variety of birds. Be it the calls of cardinals, titmice, jays, wrens, or even hawks—these smart birds are full of talent.
Besides their feathery mates, the mockingbirds can perfectly imitate other noises in their environment, such as car alarms, chainsaws, or the creaking of an opening door. They can copy other creatures as well, such as frogs and toads.
How Many Types of Sounds Can A Mockingbird Make?
The song of a mockingbird is a long string of phrases. A single phrase is repeated a few times before a new one is called out. These combined form their song. Mockingbird songs can go on as long as half a minute, sometimes even more. As their vocals are diverse, they can whistle, trill, make sharp calls and even mimic a scolding tone.
According to studies, a single bird can learn as many as 200 melodies in its lifetime. The lifespan of a mockingbird is up to 8 years in the wild. However, when raised in captivity, the birds have lived up to 20 years of age as well!
Within a year, a bird repeats 35 to 63% of its previous lessons, all the while adding more to its songbook as it travels for breeding and migration. With continuous revision and addition, it can learn up to 200 distinct sounds by the ripe age of 8 years.
You might find the vocals of mockingbirds different from one range to another. This is because of the variety of sounds they have learned to imitate. You might also notice a change in their calls as the seasons’ shift. Mockingbirds like to assign certain songs to specific seasons.
Their songs don’t consist of mimicries only. That’s because Mockingbirds have melodies of their own as well. Don’t be surprised if you can’t match the song to another bird; it’s likely just an original score.
Why Do Mocking Birds Sing?
The songs of mockingbirds are often associated with the males of the species. Their splendid variety of sounds not only help attract their female counterparts but defend their territory as well. So, do female mockingbirds sing? Yes, in fact, they do. The female birds have their own sets of songs.
Similar to the male mockingbirds, the females sing songs specific to the seasons. You’ll notice that their calls in spring sound different from the ones in fall. However, unlike the males, the female mockingbirds are quieter. You’ll rarely hear one sing in the summers. Though if her mate leaves the territory, you’ll be sure to hear her songs.
As the fall season comes to its end, the females sing more often as they begin to claim their area for the winter. Mockingbirds also make harsh sounds to scare off predators and rivals. To keep intruders away, they let out a string of hard ‘chat’ calls. Females let out similar calls when agitated. They soften this tone during incubation and nestling time.
Besides these calls, both genders sing day and night. Among the mockingbird sounds at night is their nocturnal singing. You’ll notice an increase in the singing with the rise of the full moon. The unmated males account for most of the nighttime singers. They are also more harmonious than the mated males during the daytime.
Are Mockingbirds Smart?
As Mockingbirds are tireless entertainers, research was conducted to see how many sounds can a mockingbird make. The studies on these subjects spanned over a year or two rather than their entire lives. With these quick results, ornithologists, experts on birds, deduced that mockingbirds are ‘open-ended learners.’
These types of birds, such as macaws and starlings, are able to learn new songs and calls throughout their entire lives.
More commonly, birds are ‘close-ended learners.’ This means that they are able to learn songs for a specific period of their lives. After crossing a certain age, they cannot master new sounds.
Ornithologists assumed these studies on the learning abilities of mockingbirds to be complete. However, they were observing mockingbirds when they were still in that learning time period.
A biologist, Dave Gammon from North Carolina’s Elon University, came forward with his over decade-long research. He had been especially studying these unique birds and their sharp minds. Gammon studied 15 different mockingbirds before reaching a conclusion.
With his observations, he found that mockingbirds are, in fact, close-ended learners. After a few years of mimicry, they can learn up to 200 sounds, and thereafter their learning capabilities diminish, as is the case with other close-ended learners.
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Mockingbirds are intriguing birds famous for their spot-on impressions. Made famous by the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Harper Lee, this bird is considered an icon of innocence.
Their crooning is a delight to their fans, and their ability to emulate other birds, even animals, is of endless fascination to researchers. Contrary to popular belief, mockingbirds do not only imitate other birds. They have their own calls aside from the numerous they copy from their environment.
Now that you know how many sounds can a mockingbird make – try to count how many your mimicking guests know. You might catch the croak of a toad, or the chirp of a cardinal, maybe the cry of a hawk or a car alarm being set off. Nevertheless, the smart mockingbirds will be a great source of entertainment for you.
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