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Old 03-21-2020, 11:14 AM
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Northeaster US bird that copies tones


So, spring has sprung, and birds are singing and there's one some bird songs that, ages past, have sounded like ... electronics.

Please don't quote me on the lyrebird, the Australian bird that copies all sounds perfectly, even jack hammers and car alarms, nor tell me about your parrot's abilities, at least not early in this thread. I mean the Northeastern, United States, wild, song bird.

I assume its called the mockingbird? And I think I'd heard it copies other bird songs, adding its own tones to make it a mating song? And yes, years past, I'd heard what sounds like its incorporated microwave beeps and old times cell phone rings. Yeah, that always felt a little off for me, but life finds a way, even when it really shouldn't. At least they don't copy jackhammers and motor sounds.

Now, just this year, these birds seem to have incorporated the cell phone alerts into their songs, and I really don't like hearing those unless its a serious issue, like, I dunno, a ball of COVID-19 rolling down the street, or something.

Has anyone tried to fix this. I mean, made a recording of the correct mocking bird song, play it through external speakers, and would that make the mocking birds, or what ever bird it is, sound more "typical?" And not send me false alarms all day.

And part of the night too. Is that a thing? Should they be singing at night? Or am I listening to a neighbors alert? Hrm, is any of my rant real? Other people have heard North American songbird species copy electronic sounds, right?

Last edited by Arkcon; 03-21-2020 at 11:15 AM.
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Old 03-21-2020, 11:25 AM
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I know crows will mock man-made sounds. My MIL had a tubular wind chime and she had a crow, for many years, living near her house. He could sound remarkedly like those chimes.

No, OP it does happen. You're not alone.

Last edited by Beckdawrek; 03-21-2020 at 11:26 AM.
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Old 03-21-2020, 12:10 PM
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Has anyone tried to fix this.
There'd have to be something broken to fix, and there is not.
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Old 03-21-2020, 12:35 PM
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They're called mockingbirds because they, well, mock other birds with their own songs. They also mimic any sound that catches their fancy--we had a whole family in an apartment complex I lived in that had the sound of a fussy British car trying to start on a cold morning nailed and the whole lot of them thought it was funny to chime in every time that guy tried to leave for work. There is no "right" song for a mockingbird because depending on where they live they're going to incorporate other bird songs and random noises into their own because that's what they do and it's completely normal and natural for them. They're the OG samplers.
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Old 03-21-2020, 01:09 PM
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Has anyone tried to fix this. I mean, made a recording of the correct mocking bird song, play it through external speakers, and would that make the mocking birds, or what ever bird it is, sound more "typical?" And not send me false alarms all day.
As has been said, Northern Mockingbirds don't have their own song, but imitate the songs of other birds as well as other animals and environmental sounds including man-made ones. Individual birds may have more than 200 song types. Males with larger repertoires may be preferred by females, possibly because it proves they've survived long enough to learn a lot of songs.

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And part of the night too. Is that a thing? Should they be singing at night? Or am I listening to a neighbors alert? Hrm, is any of my rant real? Other people have heard North American songbird species copy electronic sounds, right?
Yes, like the Nightingale and some other birds, the Mockingbird often sings through the night. It's possible that they do this to demonstrate their stamina to females and rival males.
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Old 03-21-2020, 02:36 PM
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I am not nearly a bird expert, but it could be a cool experiment if the OP were to pick a tone he or she would rather hear from the birds and play a recording 24/7. The local birds might pick it up and "sing" that sequence along with their other songs. I really don't think they would stop enjoying their other songs, but maybe they would ring less often if they liked the OP's song.
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Old 03-21-2020, 03:24 PM
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Yes, like the Nightingale and some other birds, the Mockingbird often sings through the night. It's possible that they do this to demonstrate their stamina to females and rival males.
Growing up mokingbirds outside the window late at night made me want to obey a Harper Lee book--and it wasn't setting watchmen. (Actually I'm hearing I think 2 outside as I type this. And my neighbor's rooster, which they never mock for some reason.)
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Old 03-21-2020, 03:37 PM
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They also mimic any sound that catches their fancy
I have known a mockingbird to imitate the cats. Sounded just like a cat, too.
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Old 03-21-2020, 04:05 PM
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I've heard a couple that bark like itty bitty yap dogs too!
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Old 03-21-2020, 05:09 PM
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I am not nearly a bird expert, but it could be a cool experiment if the OP were to pick a tone he or she would rather hear from the birds and play a recording 24/7. The local birds might pick it up and "sing" that sequence along with their other songs. I really don't think they would stop enjoying their other songs, but maybe they would ring less often if they liked the OP's song.
Yeah, they aren't really "broke" so they don't really need "fixing." If they have to impress by coping every sound then that's just what they'll do.

Seems like, its just one who's making that sound, and now, it seems like he's (outta be a he, if he's so vocal) changing the pitch, a little bit. Did he read this thread?

To any offended mockingbirds reading this thread, I'm sorry, I never meant to seriously suggest I'd try to "fix" you -- either by song or hungry cat/BB gun.
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Old 03-21-2020, 05:19 PM
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I heard a bird yesterday that sounded so much like a smoke detector alarm that I actually went outside to see if any of the neighbor's apartments were on fire. I heard the same call today at the Audubon Center but I could not locate or identify the source.
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Old 03-21-2020, 05:50 PM
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I am personally acquainted with a local Blue Jay that used for educational purposes and mimics his caretaker’s microwave oven chime as well as her cell phone ring tone.

Starlings also are amazing mimics and I not-infrequently hear “electronic “ sounds coming from them.


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Old 03-22-2020, 07:34 AM
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I don't now why those little buggers chose to mock at 3:00 AM. Who are they trying to impress? Its the only type bird that I hear at night. As a child, I remember going out and throwing rocks at one in the middle of the night. It just would not shut up. I think its interesting that they do not stick with any one song. A few "notes" of one call and on to the next. Between their songs and displays, they sure are attention seekers. Maybe I'll count how many different sounds the local makes. Not much else to do with my "corona" time off.
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Old 03-22-2020, 07:53 AM
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I heard a bird yesterday that sounded so much like a smoke detector alarm that I actually went outside to see if any of the neighbor's apartments were on fire. I heard the same call today at the Audubon Center but I could not locate or identify the source.
Wondering why is there a smoke alarm going off enough to get a bird to memorize it?

Last edited by ftg; 03-22-2020 at 07:54 AM.
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Old 03-22-2020, 08:57 AM
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The Gray Catbird also mimics other birds' songs and environmental noises. Depending on where you are in the Northeastern US, the catbird may actually be more common than the mockingbird. (In my neck of the woods, we hear catbirds all the damn time in the late spring & early summer, but mockingbirds are rare.)

That said, the catbird rapidly shifts between songs (rather than mimicking a single song multiple times, like the Northern Mockingbird does), and I don't think it sings at night either. So you're probably hearing mockingbirds.

Last edited by MikeS; 03-22-2020 at 08:57 AM.
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Old 03-23-2020, 06:07 AM
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Mockingbirds absolutely shift rapidly between songs. Typically I hear about a one second long "sample" repeated three times or so, then on to the next bit.

When we first moved to Texas, I whistled for my dog one evening and was delighted to hear the precise whistle copied back at me from the top of a nearby tree. Never happened again, even though I whistled and twittered at plenty of mockingbirds over the years after that incident.
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Old 03-23-2020, 06:34 AM
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Mockingbirds absolutely shift rapidly between songs. Typically I hear about a one second long "sample" repeated three times or so, then on to the next bit.
My point was that catbirds, unlike mockingbirds, generally don't repeat anything immediately. The video I linked is a good example of this.
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Old 03-23-2020, 07:58 AM
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While we're talking about mockingbirds, it's coming on nesting season and there are a couple of places on my walking route that are prime mockingbird nesting spots. They are territorial as all get out and it's a little unnerving to have a high velocity songbird coming from behind shoot past your ear like a brush-back pitch. I can feel the breeze sometimes.

Is there any way to discourage this? I had hoped that after a few encounters the stupid things would recognize that I wasn't a threat but it was the same thing all last year until the fledglings left the nest. I complained to my daughter about it and she said that if they were stupid for not recognizing that I wasn't a threat maybe I was stupid for not recognizing that they were a threat and maybe I ought to find a different route, so not even any sympathy.
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Old 03-23-2020, 11:40 AM
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Your daughter is correct. They will continue to protect their nest, from ALL intruders, as long as it is occupied by their little ones. There is no cease-fire and no recognized neutral parties.
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Old 03-23-2020, 11:50 AM
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I heard a bird yesterday that sounded so much like a smoke detector alarm that I actually went outside to see if any of the neighbor's apartments were on fire. I heard the same call today at the Audubon Center but I could not locate or identify the source.
The song of the Northern Cardinal is sometimes likened to smoke alarm. They are singing now in the northeastern US.

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Wondering why is there a smoke alarm going off enough to get a bird to memorize it?
It's the cardinal's natural song. They're not mimicking anything.
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Old 03-23-2020, 03:54 PM
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The song of the Northern Cardinal is sometimes likened to smoke alarm. They are singing now in the northeastern US.

It's the cardinal's natural song. They're not mimicking anything.
I was WtH? for a bit there. We have (non-northern) cardinals nesting around our house and nothing like a smoke alarm. The clip has a chirp-chirp-chirp standardish bird call. A lot of birds at our feeder sound like that. Nothing fire alarm-like to me.

Except: When the battery is going then I've heard ones that chirp. But well spaced out.

What I consider a "smoke alarm" sound would be raspier b-r-r-r-r-p type thing. Or a higher pitched variable whistle-like continuous sound.

And if cardinals actually did make a "smoke alarm" sound, then that would explain mockingbird/whatever making the sound.

I guess some of this can be chalked up to the "ears of the hearer."

Last edited by ftg; 03-23-2020 at 03:54 PM.
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Old 03-24-2020, 11:39 AM
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Your daughter is correct. They will continue to protect their nest, from ALL intruders, as long as it is occupied by their little ones. There is no cease-fire and no recognized neutral parties.
I was hoping I could paint an owl's face on the back of my hat and dissuade the mockingbird's strafing runs. I really don't want to adjust my route for a bird that probably weighs less than a couple of ounces. They usually attack from behind, and have yet to make physical contact, but come very close.

I'll probably take the safe way out and change my route. I would hate to lose an eye to a bird strike; especially since only one of them works, and you can't count on the bird taking out the non-functional one. It's also a bad time to put any additional stress on the medical system.
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Old 03-24-2020, 12:01 PM
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The clip has a chirp-chirp-chirp standardish bird call. A lot of birds at our feeder sound like that.
I assure you they don't sound like that to a birder. The clip I linked to is distinctive and instantly recognizable to any experienced birder in the Eastern US as the song of Northern Cardinal. There is nothing "standardish" about it to a birder. Some variants of the call may sound more like a smoke alarm. All I can say is that the cardinal song is often compared to a car or smoke alarm.

Quote:
And if cardinals actually did make a "smoke alarm" sound, then that would explain mockingbird/whatever making the sound.
Ynnad didn't say that a mockingbird was imitating a smoke alarm, just that some unidentified bird was making such a sound. Mockingbirds certainly imitate cardinals, and they also imitate car alarms. Starlings are also accomplished mimics and imitate car alarms etc.
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Old 03-24-2020, 02:11 PM
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When I lived in central AZ, I lived on the side of a mountain. One of my bedroom windows looked into a tree, it was fun to watch the birds hanging out. Until the day that a cardinal learned that if he sat on a tree branch about 3 feet from the window, the glass would amplify his calls most wonderfully. Asshole bird started at the crack of dawn, sounding just like a car alarm with reverb. I don't usually care about other being's sex lives, but I was seriously rooting for the damn bird to get laid so he would shut the fuck up!
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Old 03-25-2020, 06:58 AM
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I assure you they don't sound like that to a birder.
I've gone birding with an experienced birder and it is an amazing experience. He'd recognize a bird call and immediately know not only the species, but where we'd likely see the bird based on its known habits.

There'd be a chirp I didn't even hear. He'd point toward a bush, "there's a house wren over there, Carolina wrens also occur around here, but it's a little early. House wrens are nesting now, and that bush .........". Watching where he originally pointed we'd eventually spot a house wren.
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Old 03-25-2020, 07:34 AM
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I've gone birding with an experienced birder and it is an amazing experience. He'd recognize a bird call and immediately know not only the species, but where we'd likely see the bird based on its known habits.

There'd be a chirp I didn't even hear. He'd point toward a bush, "there's a house wren over there, Carolina wrens also occur around here, but it's a little early. House wrens are nesting now, and that bush .........". Watching where he originally pointed we'd eventually spot a house wren.
When we were on a tour in Panama they arranged for all of us to go to a spot with a birder and he blew my mind. Some brown thing flew past quite quickly and he was "that's a orange-legged pink-billed spittoon bird*" and when it landed I hastily paged through my dad's bird book and it was. He did this with all the birds we saw, and the ones that landed, he was always right. I mean, I know a hummingbird, a Gambel's quail and an American robin by sight. After that....

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