Saturday, June 22, 2013

Saturday Short Subjects: Celebrating Summer

Here in Connecticut it’s the first day of Summer, and it promises to be a beauty.

The first sound I heard this morning was the song of the neighborhood Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos). Each day he belts it out from the highest spots in the block — often from the pole atop the roof of the apartment building across the road — laying claim to his domain. He is a frequent visitor to my backyard and likes the American Hornbeam we planted earlier this Spring. He sings in the daytime and even during the darkest hours of the night. His amazing repertoire is even audible above rush hour traffic.

If you are not lucky enough to be acquainted with such a bird, you can get the idea from this YouTube video.

Each bird has its own set of songs. Some songs mimic the calls of other birds. Some birds have been known to mimic dog barks, sirens, and other sounds not heard in nature. [Fortunately I have never noticed the neighborhood bird incorporating the expletives shouted by frustrated drivers at this busy corner…]

Originally a southern bird, the Northern Mockingbird’s range now includes the majority of the continental US as well as parts of Canada and Mexico. Its name means “many-tongued mimic.” According to the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), an individual bird can learn up to 200 songs during its lifetime, and males have two separate sets of songs for the spring and fall seasons. Mockingbirds are fiercely territorial. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology states that mockingbirds “flagrantly harass birds that intrude on their territories, flying slowly around them or prancing toward them, legs extended, flaunting their bright white wing patches.”

Both sexes of the birds sing, but the males sing louder, longer, and more actively throughout the year. According to the NWF, unpaired males since 24 hours a day during the breeding season. 

Where do they get the energy?

Enjoy your day. Happy Summer. 

Why Saturday Short Subjects? Some readers may recall  being dropped at the movie theater for the Saturday matinee — two action-packed feature films with a series of short subjects (cartoons or short movies, sometimes a serial cliffhanger) sandwiched in between. Often the short subjects were the most memorable, and enjoyable, part of the morning. That explains the name. The reason behind these particular posts is that we are all short on time. My Short Subject posts should not take me as long to write or you as long to read (or try).

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