The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > General Questions

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 05-16-2009, 07:34 AM
Jinx Jinx is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Lost In Space
Posts: 6,999
Do Mockingbirds Mock Other Birds?

I've heard it said that mockingbirds are so-named because they mock other birds. Is this true? I've never heard them do anything but their typical call, but I am not an avid bird watcher, either.
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 05-16-2009, 10:30 AM
casdave casdave is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2000
Posts: 7,459
To mock something up, is to construct an imitation - its been in use in that way for a long time.

Mock turtle soup, mock examinations(when you do practice exams before doing the real thing)

The word mock has several degrees of meaning, from imitate through to insult - it depemds upon the context.

Mockingbirds are mimics, so I can imagine some person conflating it with the wrong meaning - this just means they do not understand things too well or they are deliberately attmetping to mislead - your call.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 05-16-2009, 10:33 AM
Paul in Qatar Paul in Qatar is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2002
Many birds, including the mocking birds, exhibit this trait, which might serve as a kind of sonic camouflage, a trick used to infiltrate other flocks, or simply play.
__________________
800-237-5055
Shrine Hospitals for Children (North America)
Never any fee
Do you know a child in need?
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 05-16-2009, 10:48 AM
Colibri Colibri is online now
SD Curator of Critters
Moderator
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Panama
Posts: 24,406
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jinx View Post
I've heard it said that mockingbirds are so-named because they mock other birds. Is this true?
The name mockingbird does refer to the habit of the species of imitating the songs of other birds in its own singing.


Quote:
I've never heard them do anything but their typical call, but I am not an avid bird watcher, either.
I would guess that you think this because you are not familiar with the songs of other birds. It can be quite entertaining to listen to a mockingbird (or other mimicking species) singing and seeing how many different songs of other birds you can identify in its song.

More information on bird mimicry can be found in my Staff Report How come parrots etc talk but chickens don't?
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 05-16-2009, 01:18 PM
Richard Pearse Richard Pearse is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Kiwi in Adelaide
Posts: 8,005
Here's a youtube video of another mimic, the superb lyrebird. Pretty cool animals. Here's another that is taking the piss just a little.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 05-16-2009, 01:56 PM
Harmonious Discord Harmonious Discord is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
This spring I noticed another bird was imitating a different bird's rhythm and pattern. It was weird to hear two completely different sounding bird voices using the same on and off pattern. In the distant past I've heard a bird do a machine sounds.

Northern Mockingbird
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 05-16-2009, 02:06 PM
John DiFool John DiFool is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
At Florida Field in Gainesville I heard one imitate a referee's whistle (on an off-gameday).

The trait probably has some elements of sexual selection (the wider the repertoire the more attractive to the opposite sex, natch, tho female mockers sing too.

Last edited by John DiFool; 05-16-2009 at 02:09 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 05-16-2009, 02:10 PM
Biffy the Elephant Shrew Biffy the Elephant Shrew is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Over on the left
Posts: 11,283
I've also heard a mockingbird imitating frogs.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 05-16-2009, 02:25 PM
Markxxx Markxxx is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Chicago,IL
Posts: 14,962
To me, mocking implies some sort of unflattering connotation, usually something that is lesser quality. A quick Google search with "define: mock" seems to back this up.

So is the name a rap?
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 05-16-2009, 02:39 PM
Biffy the Elephant Shrew Biffy the Elephant Shrew is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Over on the left
Posts: 11,283
Quote:
Originally Posted by Markxxx View Post
To me, mocking implies some sort of unflattering connotation, usually something that is lesser quality. A quick Google search with "define: mock" seems to back this up.
"Mock" also means simply "imitate" or "mimic"; the narrower definition of "imitate with derisive intent" is secondary.

The bird's species name is Mimus polyglottos, meaning "many-tongued mimic."

Last edited by Biffy the Elephant Shrew; 05-16-2009 at 02:40 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 05-16-2009, 02:59 PM
Tangent Tangent is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2002
When I was a kid, my parents had a phone in their room that had a very distinctive ring--relatively high-pitched and with a fast warble. Frequently, we would hear the phone ring and one of us would answer it to find no one on the other end. We thought it was some defect in the phone or phantom rings from the phone company. Until we discovered that there was a mockingbird nesting in the trellis outside my parents' bedroom window, and he had learned to mimic their phone!
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 05-16-2009, 03:38 PM
Chronos Chronos is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: The Land of Cleves
Posts: 52,728
Quote:
I would guess that you think this because you are not familiar with the songs of other birds. It can be quite entertaining to listen to a mockingbird (or other mimicking species) singing and seeing how many different songs of other birds you can identify in its song.
Alternately, if you're not seeing it and hearing it at the same time, you might not realize that you're hearing a mockingbird, and think it's just some other bird.

And I've heard tell of an outdoor performance of Peter and the Wolf where the floutist was apparently playing everything twice. It turned out, of course, that it was a mockingbird imitating the flute... Which, of course, was imitating a bird to begin with.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 08:54 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.