The Poets’ Birds: Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird  (Mimus polyglottos) on Galveston Island

My mother noticed the sound first, drawing my attention to it with a question. “How do you suppose a duck got up on the roof?”

Surprised, I looked around. “Duck? Where do you see a duck?”  “I don’t see a duck,” she said. “I hear a duck.” Listening, I realized she was right. The duck’s quacking, loud and insistent, seemed to be coming from above — if not from the roof, then from one of the overhanging trees.

Of course ducks fly, but we lived among mallards, and I’d never seen one perch higher than ground-level. Intrigued, I followed the sound. Caught up in a racket of its own making, the bird never moved, making it easy to spot. “Look at this,” I said. “Someone’s been hanging out around the water.”

It was a mockingbird on a corner of the roof, engaged in a pitch-perfect imitation of our local mallards. Rather than changing its song from time to time, as mockingbirds do, it simply quacked on, perhaps so delighted with its new ability it couldn’t bring itself to stop.

Eventually our amusement faded, but in the coming weeks and months I found myself listening to mockingbirds more closely, picking out snippets of other birds’ calls and songs from their repertoire.

Then, three years ago, a particularly enthusiastic singer moved into my neighborhood. He sang at dawn, and he sang at sunset; he sang at noon and, rather remarkably, he sang at midnight. I thought his night-singing an anomaly until I read this, in the Audubon Field Guide:

 This bird’s famous song, with its varied repetitions and artful imitations, is heard all day during nesting season (and often all night as well).

There’s no way to prove that the same bird has been singing outside my window for three years, but it can’t be denied that he always chooses the same palm tree, and no matter how much singing he’s done, he always begins again between 3 and 4 a.m.

Because of the way the buildings are placed, they seem to amplify his sound, increasing the volume to such a degree that even closed windows are no defense.

After recently being sung awake three nights in a row with no practical way to silence the bird — or any real desire to do so — I decided to add the mockingbird to my series of poets’ birds. This time, I wrote the poem, smiling all the while.

to trill
in darkness,
mocking heron
and mallard alike,
the impudent singer
stretches and preens for a still
unseen mate: improvised warbles,
chirrups, and peeps enticing the world
to his sweet-feathered, palm-hidden presence.


Comments always are welcome.
For more information on the Etheree, a syllabic poem that, in its basic form, contains ten lines and a total of fifty-five syllables, please click here.

143 thoughts on “The Poets’ Birds: Mockingbird

  1. How lovely, I am not even sure I could distinguish a mockingbird from every other bird, but now I want to be able to do just that. We have a woodpecker that has very diligently carved a nest into the concrete wall just under the eaves of the dairy building. He/she didn’t make it all the way through the wall so, I have left the nest alone and watched closely as the nest has been carefully filled with tufts of fur from our husky, random bits of yard from a mesh ball I hang in the tree, and cotton from the many fields around us. I am patiently waiting for babies to begin appearing. I didn’t realize that a mockingbird could mimick a duck’s quack either. That is amazing.

    1. I’ve always enjoyed looking at fallen or abandoned birds’ nests. They make such good use of little bits of everything, and it’s fun to see how differently different species build. The doves around here hardly build at all. Their little collection of sticks that passes for a nest seems to suggest they know they should provide a home, but really can’t be bothered.

      Mockingbirds aren’t particularly shy; their larger size (about like a robin) and tendency to perch in the open makes them easier to find. It’s not color that’s their selling point. A bluebird or cardinal — even a chickadee — outdoes them in that department. But sing? Oh, my. Enjoy getting to know them!

      1. I found some images and videos and now I will be paying attention. We have a bird here, that nests on the ground in the grass. I am hyper aware of where I walk during spring because of these nests. They are called Killdeer and will fake injuries to keep you away from their nests. I regularly mark the nests with flags before mowing.

        1. Good for you! We have kildeer here, too, and I think they’re sweet birds. Have you seen the young ones? They can run like a flash as soon as they come out of the egg. They look just like little golf balls with long, long legs.

  2. Lovely post, as usual!

    I was not aware that mockingbirds could mimic ducks, though I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. The ones around here only seem to make mockingbird noises and apparently don’t feel the need to mimic any other bird. However, I am pretty sure I heard one mimicking a grackle one time, but I couldn’t be sure, because when I turned around he stopped … and there was a grackle some distance away, so it’s possible it COULD have been the grackle. I’ve never been sure, though. But I would be quite impressed if the mockingbird could pull that off!

    1. Well, one mockingbird imitated a duck, at least. How common it is, I can’t say. I hadn’t heard it before, and I’ve not heard it since, but that’s part of the beauty of nature. We never know what ‘s going to happen next.

      Speaking of grackles, I found one in a dewberry patch recently, happily gorging itself on the fruit. I’d never seen that, either. And now that you mention it, I can’t remember hearing a mockingbird mimic a grackel. It would be as strange as a quack, that’s for sure, since the grackle mostly sounds to me like a rusty gate opening.

      While I’ve recently wished my local mocker wouldn’t sing quite so loudly, there’s something lovely about a bird being up and about, singing in the middle of the night. We could use more of that, actually.

      1. Of all the birds that tend to hang around my house, mockingbirds are among the least offensive. They don’t attack like bluejays, they don’t make obnoxious noises like bluejays and grackles and crows. They’re clean. They’re unobtrusive. Sign me up for more mockingbirds any day of the week!

    2. Thanks, Biff. When I was growing up in the midwest, the robin’s song meant spring had arrived; I’m not sure I heard a mockingbird until I moved to Texas. The thought of one imitating a grackle’s rusty-gate-hinge sound is as funny as one imitating a duck. I’m not sure either sound would get a girl-bird, but what do I know? Being able to imitate a duck or a grackle might be just the thing to set the fellow apart.

      1. You’re so right! I would think imitating a grackle would take mad mocking skills. That must have been some kind of special mockingbird, since grackles don’t even sound like their from this planet. Surely the girl mockingbirds would be suitably impressed?

  3. Both fascinating and amusing. I am not surprised, though, because I have had the pleasure of living among parrots; both wild and cultured, and they are most amusing when imitating other animals. I first got to know them cultured, and heard them imitating the human voice. So it came as a great surprise when one of them imitated the sound of a cat in order to attract my attention.

    1. Clearly, the parrot who imitated the cat was both skilled and sensitive; it knew precisely how to get your attention.

      I’ve never been around many parrots, but I remember with some affection a large green one who lived in a cage outside a local ships’ chandlery. Inevitably, someone would walk up to the cage and inquire, “Polly want a cracker?” At that point the bird would fix the questioner with a glare and reply, “No, Sir!” Sometimes it would indulge in slightly saltier language, which only increased the amusement factor.

      1. Yes, both parrots and mina birds have a great talent to imitate humans and to exchange comments with us. And you’re right about the bird who ‘cat called’ me. He was a free (wild) green parrot of the kind that we have quite a few of here in Jerusalem, and he took an interest in me for a while, realizing that I gave a lot of attention to cats.

  4. We’ve had the same mockingbird in our yard for at least 3 years. I know it’s the same one because every morning he lights on top of the same telephone pole outside my bedroom window and goes through his entire repertoire of mocking-birds multiple times before he moves on to the waterfall on our pond and starts it all over again. This year, a Scott’s oriole has taken up residence on one of our hummingbird feeders, (to the point that I’ve had to remove one of the bee guards so he can get his beak in) and the mockingbird has begun to mimic his lovely song…almost. It’s sort of like playing an 8-track tape…sometimes it’s fine, and sometimes it sounds like a dying oriole. Anyway, he’s become extremely versatile and we can’t wait to hear the sound track from Act II.
    Love the poem. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I didn’t know the Scott’s oriole, but after listening to its song, I’d be more than happy to have it take up residence. Its lovely, burbling melody sounds remarkably like a meadow lark. If your mockingbird can mimic that one, it’s skilled, indeed. The only thing better than having the oriole would be having the oriole and its imitator trying to out-sing each other.

      Of all their behaviors, i most enjoy the times when mockingbirds combine their songs with fluttering flights up into the air. Sometimes they’re after insects, of course, but I swear they sometimes sing and dance just for the pure joy of it. They certainly bring a good bit of joy — even at 3 a.m.

  5. That’s a delightful poem that captures the essence of your friend so well. In Australia we have a few birds (butcher birds, magpies and lyre birds) that are also wonderful mimics.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the poem, and I’m glad you mentioned the lyre bird. I was introduced to them when friends traveled to your part of the world, but I’d never explored their capacity for vocal mimicry. Imagine my surprise when I found this video showing a lyre bird imitating a camera, a car alarm, and a chainsaw. It’s truly amazing — although I did wonder just how closely humans were encroaching!

      1. Rather closely, it would seem. Sadly. If the lyrebird can mimic a chainsaw, then he’s heard a few trees being felled. The imitation of the kookaburra is quite amazing!

  6. Great poem that perfectly describes the mockingbird. I once read that an ornithologist had recorded a mocker and it had a repertoire that equaled a symphony orchestra and that it could replicate just about all the sounds of the various instruments. I must say that is quite a feat. I have never heard one quacking like a duck. That has to be quite an achievement. I have not heard any mockers lately. I hope the hawk did not get any of them.

    1. I wouldn’t worry too much about the hawks. Mockingbirds are tough, and they’ll take on raptors, cats, people — whatever’s causing them grief. Besides, it’s possible that your mockers have found girlfriends. I’ve read that once a male’s attracted a female with his song, they get busy nest-building, and the singing’s over. Pity the poor guy who’s still singing in June or July!

        1. There seem to be a lot of computer problems going around just now. I hope yours are resolved. I’ve been having trouble with Comcast the past couple of days, but I’m finally back on line for real, instead of having the service go in and out. It’s always something!

          1. Isn’t that the truth? I seem to have something amiss at any given time. My computer “fixing” cost me $151.50 and it seems ok. I am hoping to get at least another year out of this HP.

    1. There’s no need to worry about your app. It’s just fine. I’ve chosen not to enable ‘likes’ for my posts here, although I do have them enabled for my other blog, which is more heavily slanted toward photos. I know: quirky.

      I”m glad you enjoyed the poem — thanks for saying so!

    1. Well, thank you, Julie! I didn’t realize you still were blogging; somehow, emails notifications stopped coming. But I checked, and now I have only one question: how soon are the polka dotted gumboots going to arrive?

  7. That’s a truly lovely poem that puts a big smile on our faces, Linda. I had to look up what the Northern Mockingbird is called in German and Norwegian and I was amazed to find that there are more than 30 different types of Mockingbirds. I’m not quite sure if we should pity you or envy you your morning companions ;-) but at least you hear a medley of many different birds when they tune in and sing their hearts out. :-) Wishing you a wonderful day. Xx

    1. I’m happy you enjoyed the poem, Dina. And I’m surprised to know there’s such a variety of mockingbirds. That makes me happy, too. They’re such lovely singers, and it’s nice to think of them making people happy in countries other than ours.

      “Listen To The Mockingbird” is a well-known song here, too. It was composed in 1855, and is performed both with lyrics and as a traditional fiddle tune. This version always has tickled me — it’s Freeman Davis, aka “Brother Bones,” imitating a mockingbird!

  8. I have a mocking bird outside my kitchen window for 6 months every year and the sounds out of her sometimes, you’d swear someone was trying to kill her!!

    1. They certainly do indulge in a variety of songs and calls. Now I’m wondering if a mockingbird ever has imitated a peacock. The first time I heard a peacock scream, I was working on a boat behind a house, on a canal. I called the owner and made some inquiries. He just laughed and said, “No, no murder’s taking place. It’s one of the neighborhood peacocks.”

      1. I would have been surprised myself. I pass a street on my way shopping that has (my last count) 14 peacocks, but I’ve never heard a peep out of them.

  9. We have plenty of mockingbirds in Austin. I’ve never heard one imitate a duck, most likely because we don’t have ducks here the way you do on the coast. That raises the question of whether mockingbirds take their songs with them to new places when they move—assuming they move. Maybe if a mockingbird from the coast came to Austin we’d hear it sounding like a duck. That raises the further question of whether one mockingbird imitates alien sounds made by another.

    1. From what I could find, our mockingbirds tend to stay put:

      “The majority of northern mockingbirds are residents and therefore do not migrate, according to the Birds of Stanford division of Stanford University. However, some northern mockingbirds do migrate for the colder months — particularly those that live in northerly regions.”

      This little adendum made me laugh:

      “When northern mockingbirds do travel south, they typically head for the warmer weather of milder geographic locations such as Mexico, the Caribbean islands and the Bahamas.”

      If mockingbirds did mimic one another, would they be creating mockingbird memes?

  10. Our friends, the Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis), are due back in the thickets behind our house any day. They remind us of jazz musicians improvising tunes. Sometimes they will attempt to mimic my calls to them.

    1. I just learned something over at the Cornell site. Mockingbirds tend to repeat phrases three or more times, brown thrashers typically repeat a phrase twice, but catbirds tend not to repeat phrases. Maybe their repertoire is so large they have keep things moving along — and that kind of musical touch-and-go certainly is jazz-like.

      It’s fun talking to birds. Personally, I speak Mallard.

  11. I’ve occasionally had such mockingbirds that like to wake me up in the wee hours. Or maybe they are trying to annoy their lady-loves who will finally give up and say, “alright, already.” I do admire their talent, but my sense of humor can wear thin at 3 a.m., Linda. We don’t have any here, but the jay family also has mocking talent that includes mewing like a cat, which I am pretty sure they do to annoy stalking kitties. –Curt

    1. I wouldn’t mind being wakened at 3 a.m. — Dixie Rose used to do it on a regular basis. But I always could go back to sleep because once she’d gotten her attention, she grew quiet. There’s something about the mockingbird that keeps me awake: probably that it keeps singing, and I keep listening.

      You’re going to be having some fine opportunities for middle-of-the-night listening when you’re on your trek. May you have only birds, frogs, and breezes in the trees. You’ve done enough bears for one lifetime!

      1. I think I reported that FE would wake us up, but that was only after we had left her behind when we had gone out on trips.
        I’ll add waterfalls and streams. Rain, too. The frogs can provide a complete chorus. Poor Wills (our western equivalent of the Whip-or-will) can easily keep you awake most to the night! Down around Yosemite, the bears will likely be by for a visit. The new bear canister that I will use when hiking through the area will keep my food safe, however. –Curt

  12. I love your poem and especially the shape. Besides being noisy, Mockingbirds also dive bomb dogs, cats and people that come into their territory. I have also seen them chase raptors away.

    1. The etherees are fun. In the beginning, I focused only on syllable count, but eventually I began trying to add some rhythm and rhyme, and found just how challenging working within a structure can be. I’m glad you enjoyed this one.

      When I first met mockingbirds, I was surprised by their cheekiness. I’m sure they’re cautious, and judge their opponents pretty well, but if they think defense is needed, they’re ready to do battle. Otherwise? They seem content just to sing.

  13. That’s a wonderful poem! :) I’ve been fooled by mockingbirds and catbirds, and get a kick out of them, but after a while they can get on your nerves. When you write “a still
    unseen mate,” I was thinking, sometimes I do wish they’d keep still!

    1. Thanks, Rob! I haven’t written an etheree in some time. They tend to result from a line or phrase that just pops into my mind, so if a phrase doesn’t “pop” — no etheree. I was happy to have this one come along, and I’m glad you like it.

      I love that new meaning you put on “a still unseen mate.” It’s the power of punctuation — write it as “a still, unseen mate” and your meaning takes over.

  14. I don’t believe I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing or hearing a mockingbird in the wild. If I did, I was unaware of it. I was also unaware of the Etheree poem form. I’ll have to study it a little and try a few myself. One of the things I always enjoy about your posts is they are always so educational.

    1. Even though the bird in my tree is called a “northern” mockingbird, it doesn’t live quite as far north as you do, Sheryl. So, if you have come across one, it would have been in a place other than your home state. I didn’t realize that until I looked at this map, and saw where the upper limit of their range is. I don’t remember being around them until I moved to Texas.

      I’m not sure how many people know about the etheree. I suspect the answer is, “Not many.” Even in its originator’s home state, her reputation is fading. She once was nominated to be Arkansas state poet, but when I visited her home town, it was hard to find any information about her — except that her brother used to play Santa Claus. I need to get back and try again.

  15. I opened this window, but was too exhausted to focus on words – and slept for ten hours after reaching Jama. Now rested, I note a very-cheerful ‘Tropical Mockingbird’ singing its happy and varied melody. I photographed it yesterday, and it flitted from palm to roof to hibiscus (12 feet tall at least) but is almost always somewhere around this hostal.

    The mockingbirds also provided background music at Casa Loca, and at times it was like being back in Mississippi. I’ve not heard them veer from their normal song, though for months in Poza Honda (four hour drive away) I mistook the Ecuadorian Thrush’s song for a Mockingbird’s.

    Lovely post, lovely Linda!

    1. Isn’t it a joy to have such a dawn chorus to wake us, and such evening songs to help us set aside the cares and frustrations of the day? This morning, the mockingbird seems to be sleeping in, but such a chattering of cardinals and sparrows I’ve rarely heard. The water birds are lovely, but songsters they aren’t. That may be why the mockingbirds rarely imitate their sounds: they just aren’t pretty enough to attract a mocking-girl.

      I did have a lovely experience this week. I was roaming around the back roads of Galveston Island when I saw the most beautiful bird sitting on a fence post: a stunning combination of yellow, orange, and black. I had the macro lens still on the camera (of course). By the time I stopped the car, rolled down the window, and changed lenses, it was on the wing (again, of course). In fact, I didn’t even have time to change from the aperture setting. Still, I was able to capture a bit of its beauty, and when I showed it to some birders who were on the island for the annual Feather Fest, they said, in unison, “Baltimore oriole!” As one put it, “Who cares if your photo’s not good? You got to see it, and you’ve got a record.” I suspect you know something about that.

  16. I love the mockingbirds, Linda. We have one that teases the dogs unmercifully. He also imitates a cardinal and sits on the chimney cap so that we can enjoy his song throughout the house. The poem made me smile.

    1. They do seem to enjoy imitating cardinals,don’t they? It’s fun to try to pick out the various songs they’re imitating. It isn’t a bad way to learn birdsongs, when you get right down to it. I’m a little amused by the thought of a mockingbird taking on the dogs, although it ought to be something to see when Twiggy has her first experience with them. Maybe the big girls will let her know that there’s really nothing to fear.

      The etherees are fun to work with. Like haiku, the form itself presents some challenges, but it’s amazing how much can be tucked into so few syllables.

    1. That’s lovely. It reminds me of the song of the rice bird in Liberia. I’m not sure of that one’s scientific name, and couldn’t find it just now, but despite its destructive effects on the rice fields, it certainly was enjoyable to listen to.

  17. I’ve seen mallards fly, but have never seen a mockingbird or heard its songs, neither have I heard a nightingale sing. I consider that a deprivation for an avid birder. Your tree form is perfect for a bird poem.

    1. I confess that when I hear the word nightingale, my first thought is Florence. Only then do I remember all the poems that have been written about the nearly-mythic bird.

      You only need come south to hear a mockingbird, but we’re both going to have to do more extensive traveling to find a nightingale singing in real time. Of course, the internet being what it is, we could bookmark three hours of nightingale song and save the airfare.

      The rhyme between tree and etheree demands to be played with, and of course Joyce Kilmer’s famous line came to mind: “I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree…” Clearly, he never met the etheree.

      1. BTW, that’s one of my fave poems of all time. I remember I learned to sing the song to the lyrics of Trees in grade school, where else? In HK. :)

        1. What a sweet memory, Arti. Sometimes people forget that sharing of different cultures took place across time and distance even before the internet came along. Most of the nursery rhymes, fairy tales, and such that I enjoyed as a child were from England, Germany, and the Scandinavian countries. It was another way to teach us that sharing is good.

  18. As children learn to speak, there is this time when they too become mockingbirds. I learned that the hard way when my young daughter suddenly exclaimed, “OH S**T” at a family gathering.

    Her intonation was pitch perfect and all heads turned toward me.

    1. There were two sayings common during my childhood: “Little pitchers have big ears” and “Monkey see, monkey do.” I suspect few people know the origin of the first, and too many would be “offended” by the second, but the truth is the truth, however reluctant we are to acknowledge it.

      On the other hand, those spontaneous comments helped build Art Linkletter’s career, since kids do, in fact, say the darnest things, even if they choose the most inopportune times to do so.

  19. Sadly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard a mockingbird. When I let my dog out in the morning I often hear a bird that I can imitate. Does that count? I swear it calls back to me and we can keep that up for 7-8 exchanges. I’m trying to get to 10 but my whistling gets weak near the end.

    Love your poem, I’m really attracted to poems that are as pleasing to the eyes as to the ears.

    1. Remember the tagline for that margarine commercial — “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature”? Whether it’s nice or not could be debated, but it certainly can be fun, especially when it involves confusing, surprising, or enticing a bird. After all, that’s what duck calls were made for. If you can do it without the help of a gadget, all the better. I still remember the day the light turned on and I realized that the change from “bird-watching” to “birder” had taken place, because hearing as well seeing is so important in finding these feathered delights.

      Your comment about the shape of a poem on the page took me back to my first encounter with e.e. cummings, and those scattered words of his. Sometimes his form really worked, and sometimes it was off-putting, but it was interesting. I once read an article touching on the implications of poetry moving from spoken word to written page, and what was lost in the process. That’s one reason I always read my etherees aloud as I’m working on them. While syllable count can produce the form, it’s the ear that finds the clunkers that detract from the poem.

  20. Mockingbirds are one of my favorites. whenever I see/hear them I always thank them for their lovely song. Lots of night singing going on here too but I’m not sure it is just the mockingbirds. One year I was out in the yard putzing around and I kept hearing a sound over and over…someone’s trying to get their car started I thought to myself. Turned out to be a mockingbird.

    1. Your yard, with its flowers and feeders, must seem like heaven to the birds. We have more than just mockingbirds roaming around during the night hours, too. Right now, the night herons are most active, and one loud-mouthed female mallard, but of course they’re squawkers rather than singers.

      I’d never heard of the Chuck-Will’s-widow, but once someone sent me a link to its song, I recognized it. Maybe this is one of yours.

      I love those mechanical sounds the mockingbirds (and others) can make. Sometimes it seems they pay more attention to us than we do to them.

  21. How perfectly delightful, both your information on mockingbirds and your Etheree! Now that their breeding season is nigh, I’ll have to pay more attention and see if I can catch one of these great imitators in action. Right now, I have a turtle dove nesting outside my window, and I’m waiting for her eggs to hatch!

    1. I have a dove that comes up every morning and evening for a drink of water. I’m not sure if it’s one dove or two, since I can’t tell the male and female apart, but I suspect there might be a nest nearby. I’ve only located two nests this spring — lucky you, to have one right outside your window. I hope all goes well.

      Between their singing, their nesting, and all that work to feed their babies, it’s no wonder we find the birds so engaging. I’ve come to believe that calling someone a “bird-brain” might be more of a compliment than we’ve realized!

  22. Thanks for the reminder of the Audubon site. I usually go to Cornell, but I think I might like Audubon better. Having recently moved to the west coast I am just now able to pay more attention to subtle things like birds. Someone told me that cardinals were not out here, so I double checked the Audubon map. Nope. No cardinals. They are smart enough to know the ordeal of moving west might not be worth the trauma. That would mean I’m not even as smart as your average “bird brain”.

    I always love listening to the bird recordings. Catbird- “Reow!”

    1. I use the Cornell bird ID app, and really like it. After choosing a database, you enter a specific location, date, colors, and size, and the app shows you a list of possible birds. If what you’ve seen isn’t listed, you can enter that, too. They’re constantly updating the database, and it really is good for a beginner like me. On the other hand, the Audubon site seems more complete to me, and I can find details there that aren’t on the Cornell site, or are harder to find.

      That’s interesting about the lack of cardinals. On the other hand, the “northern” mockingbird doesn’t even get to the northern tier of states. As for plants, so for birds, I suppose. What makes it in the north doesn’t do so well in the south, and vice-versa. Actually, it’s not only a matter of north and south. I rarely see cardinals, waxwings, or chickadees because we just don’t have the brush and trees they prefer in this neighborhood. It does make visiting other places interesting, though.

      Have you heard about Song Sleuth? it works much like the Cornell visual app. I’ve not tried it, but I think it would be fun to play with.

  23. What a delight~a mockingbird who has learned to quack! I can well imagine him not wanting to stop.
    Once I was in the woods and heard the call of a red tail hawk. This wasn’t red tail habitat, as the trees were too dense, so I was puzzled and stopped to look around. Finally I heard the distinctive call ending on a ragged note and what sounded an awful lot like a guffaw when I spotted him~a blue jay was pulling my leg! I love your poem.

    1. I couldn’t help thinking he was much like a child who’s learned a new skill, and who wants to show it off: over and over and over and…

      I love bluejays. I didn’t know they had the ability to mimic, but it really doesn’t surprise me. I went for a few years without being able to identify a sweet, burbling sound that drifted through every now and then, and was astonished to find it belonged to a jay. I’d only heard those raucous cries, and the fussing they like to do. The best is the loud “Come and get it!” call they make when they come to the balcony in the morning and discover the peanuts already are out.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the poem. A mockingbird for a muse isn’t the worst thing in the world.

      1. No, it sure isn’t :)
        I love bluejays, too. Like you I had no idea they were mimics until I caught one at it. They hunt, too. One day I happened to glance out the window just as a mouse was heading for the house to find a way in. Before I could react, a blue blur descended and the jay speared the mouse and made off with it. It was nesting time, so no doubt the protein was needed. I was happy to trade baby bluejays in a tree for a mouse in the house. Although mice are terribly cute.

  24. When I was in junior high and high school, we had a Dodge Coronet that my mother drove. It had a characteristic squeak in the driver’s side door. I would know she had come home from work when I heard that squeak. Then one summer, I heard it, realized it was the middle of the afternoon, and there was no car in the driveway. A mockingbird had learned to imitate it.

    I’ll see your etheree and raise you a small stone: “Klieg lit by the full moon, the mockingbird’s child takes a bough in the ornamental pear tree and does impersonations: A starling, a blue jay, a grackle, a cardinal, a robin, a car alarm.”

    1. I love all these tales of avian creativity. Whatever moves them to imitate car doors and such, I’m glad they do it. It’s humorous, and a good reminder that as much as we know about nature, we don’t know everything.

      I’m glad you included the starling in your small stone. I like them. They have nice songs, and iridescence, and they usually build nests around the marinas where I can watch the activity. They do have an unfortunate tendency to build inside hollow sailboat booms; people who find twigs and leaves on their boats know it’s time to start discouraging home building. Of course, not everyone’s so inclined. One sailor I know let his boat sit at the dock until a mallard’s eggs hatched; she’d built a nest in the cockpit.

    1. That’s such a good idea. I can imagine it’s challenging, too. I can pick out some songs, but very few. Tonight, there’s not much singing going on, but there’s a whole lot of peeping. The baby mallards are starting to show up in greater numbers, and it can be noisy in the evening as the mamas and babies try to find one another.

    1. I think the mockingbird’s been around for three years partly because I have some bluejays and mallards that I’m sure return every year. In fact, I suspect the bluejays that come now are the progeny of the first ones who discovered I had food to share. They show up at the same time every year, and sit outside my window and fuss. Once I put out some peanuts for them, they visit occasionally until, quite suddenly, they’re making about fifty trips a day to pick up peanuts and carry them away. Obviously, they’re feeding their young.

      It’s all great fun, and I really enjoyed turning the love-lorn mockingbird into a bit of poetry. I’m glad you liked it. In a way, etherees are like little verbal snapshots: big enough to tell a story, but easy to share.

    1. You’re at about the upper end of their range. I don’t remember ever seeing one in Iowa, even though there’s a suggestion some will travel that far during the breeding season. It wasn’t until I got to Texas that I made their acquaintance, and came to love them. Their utter lack of shyness makes them so accessible. Right now, it’s hard to spend five minutes outside without seeing or hearing one.

  25. Mockingbirds are amazing birds! We had one that sang outside our bedroom at night for several nights in a row. We have several that hang around our house. They are fierce fighters too and I have often seen them chase cats and squirrels if they had a nest nearby, fussing noisily all the time. I like your tribute to yours!

    1. I completely neglected to mention that, since 1927, the mockingbird’s been our state bird. I suppose it’s a detail that doesn’t really fit with the story or the poem, but still — the bird’s a good choice. It can be found throughout the state, it can be prickly as a cactus, and it can sing like a cowboy at a campfire. Perfect!

      I hope you still have your songster. It’s been strangely silent here for two nights. It may be that my enthusiastic singer found himself a girlfriend. If he did, there will be less singing and more fussing, especially if someone tries to move in on his territory. I do know the peeping of baby mockingbirds, so there soon may be new sounds to enjoy.

  26. I’ve had Mockingbirds since I moved to Georgia 12 years ago. Ever since I see them daily, they are the Authority in my backyard. I named the male “Sheriff” I enjoy their smart attitude and fearless determination when confronted. I have enjoyed their imitating other birds for a purpose, several times. Some people find them to be nasty and not likable. Not I! Great post and lovely poem my dear Linda. You rule! :)

    1. They do have an attitude, don’t they? Still, I can’t imagine anyone not liking them — although I do know people who don’t like ice cream, or chocolate, so you never can tell. Texans like them so much they’re our state bird.

      Your nickname for yours is perfect. Do you suppose there are other birds who occasionally sing, “I Fought The Law, and The Law Won”? I’ve watched mockingbirds run off even raptors, so your description of them as fearless and determined certainly fits.

  27. We don’t have Mocking Birds up here (I wish we did) but I fondly remember one in Arizona who used to sing every night, I would often go out and try my best to imitate his call. I must have been close because he would return my attempt. There were many pleasant minutes in the middle of those nights!

    1. Isn’t it fun to play with birds? They can be so responsive — and getting that response from them is delightful. I’ve never tried to imitate a mockingbird, but I have gotten their attention with my imitation of a cardinal’s song. It tickles me to think of you out there in the dark, whistling away.

      Sometimes I’ve had a hard time figuring out whether I’m hearing a mockingbird or the bird they’re imitating, but since reading that mockingbirds repeat phrases three times, it’s gotten easier. Listening for the repetition’s the key.

  28. We have starlings here who imitate other birds, but the only one who wakes me each morning is the blackbird, with its musical Dawn Chorus.
    I am so glad you introduced me to Etheree poetry. I have written quite a few over the past six or seven years. I find it an enjoyable and fulfilling way of putting words on paper, and it stretches my mathematical abilities, too!

    1. If it’s stretching mathematical abilities you’re after, here’s something Linda learned a few years ago. Suppose you have a poem like an etheree with 1 syllable in line 1, 2 syllables in line 2, 3 syllables in line 3, and so forth down through n syllables in line n. There’s an easy way to calculate the total number of syllables down through line n: take n, multiply it by the next higher number, and divide the result by 2.

      An etheree has 10 lines, so the total number of syllables is 10 x 11 ÷ 2 = 55.
      If you continue writing until you have 20 lines, the total number of syllables is 20 x 21 ÷ 2 = 210.

      1. Thanks Steve….. I think!

        if Steve is
        correct with his
        formula, as it seems
        too complicated for me.
        It’s many decades since I last
        had a maths class, be it algebra,
        geometry or trigonometry!


        1. A poet who counts all her words
          has strayed rather far from the herd.
          But a formula fine
          adds to rhythm and rhyme
          a delight that demands to be heard.

          Take that, free versers!

      2. Some people like to do double etherees, working their way from one to ten, and then back from ten to one, so the poem takes on roughly the shape of a butterfly if it’s centered.

        In that case, the formula doesn’t work, even though the number of lines add up to twenty. I’m pondering this. I’m not sure there would be a formula to calculate the number of syllables in a doubled etheree, but it makes me happy that I recognized that the formula you shared wouldn’t do it.

        Math in the morning! Amazing.

        1. What? A regular pattern but not a formula? Oh, heresy!

          According to, the syllable count for a double etheree is 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1. The reason I checked is to make sure that the second half begins with another 10-syllable line. Therefore the two halves match, and the total number of syllables will be twice that of a regular etheree. Therefore you’d start with the multiplication specified in the regular formula but wouldn’t divide by 2. For a 10-line etheree, you’d have 10 x 11 for a total of 110 syllables. For a 20-line etheree-type poem, you’d have 20 x 21 for a total of 420 syllables. The total number of syllables in an n-line etheree is n x (n + 1).

          1. Okay, so that was for the truly double etheree-type poem. A little more interesting is the type 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1, where the line with the greatest number of syllables does not repeat. What we’ve got is a double 9-line etheree plus one extra line of 10 syllables, so the total is 9 x 10 + 10 = 100. Not coincidentally, 100 is 10 squared. The formula for the case without a repeat in the middle is simple. In an etheree with a non-repeating middle line of n syllables, the total number of syllables is n squared.

          2. I really enjoyed both of your comments here, but it’s taken me until now to sit down and figure them out. You’re right that the example with the non-repeating middle line’s more interesting. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one written in that way.

            Your examples and explanation also made me wonder whether Etheree-the-poet might have been as focused on math as on verse when she came up with the form. I’ve never read anything about her process for creating it, but there surely must be some information somewhere.

    2. That’s interesting about your starlings. I’m surrounded by them at work, but I’m not sure I’ve ever heard them imitating other birds. Of course, different continents, different species may be in play, and that makes a difference. What I remember most about your starlings are the videos I’ve seen of their murmurations. They’re just stunning, even on video.

      Now that I’ve introduced you to etherees as a form, the next step is introducing you to Etheree, the person. That project’s been bubbling along on the back burner, partly because my trip to her hometown turned out quite differently than I imagined, and I need to go back. With any luck, the dogs that kept me from finding her grave will be chained next time. They lived in a house next to the cemetery, and obviously considered part of it their territory. When I talked to some locals, I heard the phrase, “Oh — those dogs” about a dozen times. More about that later.

      What’s surprised me about the form itself is that it’s usually the recognition of the pattern within a phrase that gets me started. With this one, I was idly listening to the mockingbird and thought, “Well, he’s thrilled to be trilling in darkness.” It took about a nanosecond to reduce that to “thrilled/to trill/in darkness” and there it was: one, two, three. At that point, it was just a matter of finding seven other lines!

  29. I am glad your song bird is an accomplished one. A friend of mine has a song bird in her garden who can’t sing well at all. We wonder if he has a disability or if he simply didn’t have a good singing tutor. Apparently birds need good teachers as much as we do when it comes to producing fine songs.

    1. Ah, the old nature vs. nurture argument — in nature. I’m sure that physical characteristics affect the quality of some birds’ sounds; I sometimes hear that in the mallards that surround me. But with the mockingbirds, at least, it makes perfect sense that they would imitate their parents, and I’m sure that happens with other species, too.

      On the other hand, I recently saw an example of behavior that amused me greatly. Male ducks often fight over territory and females, locking bills as they do. When I found a clutch of duck babies with their parents, two were engaged in a play-fight, and they were using their bills just as the adults do, flapping their tiny little almost-wings for all they were worth. it was delightful to see, and instructive. (Those are daddy’s legs on the left, and mama’s tail on the right.)

      1. That’s very instructive, and well-observed. My sister has a several birds which visit her garden regularly. She finds them very entertaining. At the moment, she has a visiting bird which she hears but doesn’t ever see. It calls out her name. This is its first visit since my father died. She thinks it picked up her name from hearing our father calling it so often and so loudly!!! When my father was alive my sister used to get quite confused as to who was calling her; bird or father. Now she knows it can only be the bird but the bird sounds just like our father. A little eerie!

    1. You are a little far north for mockingbirds, although they’re shown as resident in the southern half of the state. On the other hand, you do have robins, and in my book, they’re fully as delightful as the mockingbird. When I moved to Texas, I considered the mockingbirds a sort of consolation prize for my loss of the robins.

      I’m pleased you liked the poem. It’s been fun introducing people to the form.

  30. Awesome article! :)
    Years ago, when we bought one of our parrots, a Military Macaw, I kept hearing a little dog barking outside. However, every time I ran out to see the dog, no dog was there. Then we realized that it was the parrot perfectly imitating the bark of a little dog! That bird was eventually paired with another bird, and they had tons of babies. :)

    1. Parrots fascinate me. There are wonderful stories of them helping to solve crimes and such, although some of the stories may be apocryphal. I did know a woman years ago who kept a parrot after her husband’s death solely because the bird could imitate the husband’s voice perfectly.

      Your macaw’s a beautiful bird. I see that they can live for fifty to sixty years. Do you still have him?

  31. I am so jealous! It’s been years since I heard a mockingbird … I wish one would visit my garden. But in the middle of reading through your post and the comments, I had to go outside, and a bird that had been singing in the crape myrtle flew off… it looked like a house finch. Then, there he was on the roof, singing to me a couple of measures, and realized I had never noticed that song before, though I knew I had house finches around here. He sang some more, and when I said “Good morning!” to him, he moved to a different place, still nearby, and soon there was Mrs. House Finch next to him. They were telling me not to be longing for Mockingbird, but to listen to those bird friends I do have. :-)

    Thank you, Linda!

    1. I laughed at your comment about jealousy. That’s what I go through every year when the beautiful fall foliage begins to appear in the northern states. I try and remind myself that we have lovely autumn color, too, and all that wintertime snow might be too high a price to pay for even New England style color.

      The mockingbirds are lovely, but I’ve been blessed with house finches a time or two, and they certainly know how to sing. Not only that, they’re rather pretty. And of course the little lesson in your comment’s one that we all have to learn and re-learn, time and time again.

      I’m always glad to find someone else who greets the birds. I often do the same, and in fact have been known to say hello to the lizards who live around me. This morning, I’m hearing a new sound: bird babies! I’m not sure what they are yet. My guess is cardinals, but I’ll find out soon enough. If I’m lucky, the adults who have been coming by to pick up peanuts will bring their young ‘uns once they’ve fledged.

  32. I think your late night/early morning crooner is probably a lonesome, unattached male. I love mockingbirds. Interestingly, I rarely see them in my back garden; they’re always out front. In this past week though, one (or several) have visited the pond (NEVER seen a mock do that) and the bird baths. Not sure why, but I’m enjoying seening them. The poem is a charmer–I’m smiling too!

    1. That’s probably a good guess, Tina. I’ve read that female mockingbirds will sing, too, but that it’s mostly the males, and that it’s mostly a look-at-me-I’m-your-guy sort of song.

      I’ve never noticed mockingbirds around water. I wonder if your pond’s suddenly home to a lot of insects that are tempting them. I once saw one pluck a damselfly out of the air: such an amazing sight.

      Speaking of amazing sights, look who I saw earlier this week — a Baltimore oriole. It was sitting only twenty feet away, on a fence post. By the time I stopped the car, lowered the window, and changed lenses, it had flown. But at least I got a glimpse, and if it had been in focus it would have been a wonderful photo!

      1. Oh how exciting! I had them show up in my garden last spring for the first time. Those and Orchar orioles love oranges. I have some out now, no takers except for the squirrels. Yes, it’s great shot of the bird’s flight. I wish we could talk them in to posing for us…:)

  33. I’ve never heard of an Etheree, but then I don’t read much in the way of poetry or have a great range of vocabulary (which makes me terrible at doing crosswords I might add – my younger brother is brilliant).

    That’s a particularly good bird shot opening this post – just the right angle with that sun glint in the eye.

    I greatly admire your writing ability. Its mainly since I’ve read (and written) on the internet that I realise how unfortunate some people are in their lack of education and writing skill.

    1. I’m not at all surprised you haven’t heard of Etherees. The form was invented fairly recently, and isn’t often used. Still, it has its admirers (like me) and it’s a lot of fun to work with.

      I wish I could have captured the mockingbird in flight, or displaying its wing bars, but that just didn’t work out. Since I try to use my own photos for these posts, I went with what I had — I’m glad you like it.

      Reading and writing go together, and they’re such basic, important skills. One of my favorite local projects is called The Ark Book Pantry. A church in a nearby town that was devastated by Hurricane Harvey decided that their first step in rebuilding would be to reclaim an office to use as a collection site for new children’s books. The books are given to any children or parents who want them, both to replace books lost in the flood and to encourage parents and children reading together. It’s a small step, but it can make a difference.

      1. What a marvellous initiative. I can’t imagine life without books. I used to do a lot of writing, including health articles online, but now my intermittent memory and cognitive issues mean some days I can’t think straight and my typing looks dyslexic (until 6-7 proofreads and re-writes).
        The auto spell-check of WordPress & the Mac doesn’t help (turning some words into a word totally unrelated to the post content.

        1. Everyone grumps about spellcheck and etc. You’re certainly not alone when it comes to that. The quirk I have to keep an eye out for is the think-one-word-type-another syndrome. It can lead to some very interesting sentences.

          1. Like when I wanted to write “I caught a bus into the city centre” and it came out in the typed word “The cat went for a picnic” (or something like that). In the last few months of my working life, I had complete brain fog some days. I must have spent 30-40 minutes trying to work out how to write the letter ‘p’ one day. I tried d, q, b and none looked right so I caught a lift to the basement restroom and wasted 30 mins trying to work it out. LOL. I managed in the end. But one of the reasons I had to quit working was my short-term memory and cognitive dysfunction. My Boss would ask me to do some task or investigation and by the time I had walked back to my office, 2 doors down the corridor, I had forgotten and had to go back with a notepad & pen and ask him again (writing it down the 2nd time). I suppose it was funny at the time and drove my Boss crazy :D

  34. Lovely poem, Linda. Fascinating – I’d never heard of an Etheree, but what a fun challenge! When I was a teenager I dabbled in poetry. Perhaps I should make the time to try again.

    I only recently realized that mockingbirds sing in the night. I took the dogs out at 2:00 am (which I never do but I was up trying to settle a cough) and was amazed at all of the noise at that hour! The last two years we have seen a population explosion of mockingbirds on our property. I notice them in all areas of the orchard and river bottom too. And they’re quite bold in their presence. I can get within a few feet of approaching them. And I have noticed that they and the cardinals are good to help other birds during the fledging time of the young. They stand by as monitors, warning of predators and making calls or dive bombing to keep the little ones safe. They are great insect catchers! I love to watch them do a three-point wing spread to scare up insects. And around here they are very present when I’m mowing – being opportunists like most wildlife, they wait for the passing of the mower to snatch up exposed insects! Mockingbirds are one of my favorites!

    1. I’m happy to have introduced you to a new poetic form, Lori. It is fun, even though there can be a lot of tinkering that goes on in the process of producing one.

      You’ve just told me something I didn’t know: that the wing spread while mockingbirds are running around is to scare up insects. That makes perfect sense. Now that I know they also will wait atop poles to pluck one from the air, I sometimes can catch them in the act. They’re certainly entertaining, and their fearlessness makes them far easier to observe than many birds.

      Speaking of dive bombing, a friend and I were doing a little light roaming around on Friday evening, and she had her first experience of being dive-bombed by a nighthawk. The sound of the air rushing through its feathers about two feet above her head was something. She didn’t have a clue what it was, and nearly hit the ground. You surely have nighthawks there, since I remember them from Iowa. They do put on quite a show. I’m going to go back to the spot where we found them and see if I can get some photos — or at least enjoy them again.

      1. I’m not familiar with nighthawks but we do have a barn owl that loves to fly just above my head some mornings when I’m heading to the street to open our front gate. It scared me the first few times and I had no idea what it was until spring when I had daylight to identify it. It actually roosts at my neighbor’s and flys to the west, right down our driveway, and then on into the woods. What an amazing sound to hear those wings just overhead… well, amazing when you know what it is. It’s frightening the first times it happens and you’re not expecting it!!

        1. I wish I could have such an experience, Lori. I’m owl-deprived! Of course, they may be out there, and I don’t recognize their calls. In fact, that’s likely. I’ve put the blame on lack of trees for them around here, but since there even are burrowing owls, trees aren’t always necessary. I need to spend some time listening to recordings of our local species calls. I’ll bet I’d recognize their presence more often if I did.

  35. Lovely description. We do not have mockingbirds in our part of the world, but since reading the famous book, ‘To kill a mockingbird’, many decades ago, I have been always intrigued by the name. In your description, I could visualize its activities so clearly indeed!

    1. They’re wonderful imitators, and a joy to have around, even when they decide the middle of the night is the best time to practice their singing. I had wondered whether anyone would make a reference to the book To Kill A Mockingbird, and now you have ~ thank you! I’m glad I could enliven the bird for you a bit; it’s wonderful to be able to share our local delights with the world.

      1. Harper Lee’s unforgettable book first made me aware and so very curious about these wonderful creatures. And your description was very nice to read. ‘Live on with your innocence, mockingbirds, some people are there who care for you’.

  36. I’ve always wondered what kinds of birds respond to the mating songs of mockingbirds – the lady mockingbirds or all of the other bird types he is imitating?! Of course I know he is trying to attract his own kind, but I do think about all the other birds he is attracting to himself and how that all turns out!

    1. I pondered that for a while, Lexie. The thought that a mockingbird might pass itself off as another species was amusing — rather like an avian version of human catfishing on the internet. But I suspect there’s little confusion, since the mockingbird generally repeats a given phrase three times (or sometimes once or twice) and then moves on to its next song. I can imagine some girl cardinal saying, “Did you hear that?” When her friends say, “What?”, the song has stopped, and she decides she just imagined it.

  37. I did not know that Mockingbirds were imitators nor did I know they carried on in the middle of the night. How interesting is this? I’m wondering if you might open your window and attempt to imitate the bird.

    I do this all the time with our owls. Two great-horned owls will be hooting and purring and whirring but when go outside and try to add myself to the pair, they ignore me.

    Then I hear the barn owls, concerned about a possible interloper. As you know, great-horned owls can kill a barn owl, so then the entire mini-forest is as quiet as a clean room.

    1. I can imitate a mallard, and a cardinal, and to some degree a dove, but a mockingbird’s far beyond my capabilities. Their songs are so complex; I’ve read that they’re able to imitate up to two hundred species of birds, not to mention the occasional screen door and car alarm.

      I always know when the hawks are around, too. When all of the chatter and singing suddenly stops, someone’s in the neighborhood, and it hasn’t stopped in for a friendly visit. Bird-listening’s as intriguing as bird watching, for sure.

  38. P.S. I guess the War of 1812 was fought in 1812 and that Grant is buried in Grant’s tomb. I also guess that Mockingbirds are named for a reason. Duh.

    1. Isn’t it funny how a name suddenly can come alive in a new way, and become almost revelatory? It happens for me with plants. I can’t think of an example just now, but I know the experience of thinking, “Oh! That’s why they call it that.”

  39. How I wish we had mockingbirds, they intrigue me! Wonderful poem! Our resident starling at the rescue mimics everyone’s ringtones so we know who hasn’t turned their phone off, it also does rather splendid rabbit, guinea pig and chick

    1. Now you’ve surprised me. I didn’t realize starlings would do imitations, too. Perhaps yours are more clever than ours. A ring-tone imitator could raise a bit of havoc. Don’t you wonder sometimes if they don’t do such things just to get a reaction? If they’re clever enough to do the imitation, they’re surely clever enough to know the reaction that will come.

      Sometimes I think words can do as well as an image when it comes to capturing a bit of life. I’m glad you liked my little attempt here.

  40. It just struck me that this could make a nice comedy sketch: a mockingbird calling for a mate, and having a host of ducks, owls, crows etc responding to his call! Do they have a call unique to them, or do they only mock?

    1. They do have specific calls that are far more simple. It’s their song that’s filled with the imitative phrases, and it’s designed primarily to attract a mate. They do seem to sing for the simple pleasure of it, though — at least, that’s what I like to think.

      I did read about a Native American myth that’s quite delightful. In it, the Great Spirit created the mockingbird first, and he was granted all the songs that we hear him sing. But the other birds were envious, so each was allowed to choose one of the mockingbird’s songs. That’s why the cardinal or the house finch have only one song, while the mockingbird still sings them all!

  41. I’ve always loved the enthusiasm of Mockingbirds singing all night long – a nice memory from back east. Alas, there are none out here. I miss them. Here’s to being awakened by beauty.

    1. And I miss the robins. Their song is quintessential summer for me — but the mockingbirds are a great consolation prize. Do you have particular birds whose songs are considered iconic in that part of the world?

    1. Thank you, Lavinia. There’s something about birds that get my poetic juices flowing. Whether I’m writing one or sharing a poem written by someone else, it often seems the best response to the delightful creatures.

  42. Your image is beautiful. I learned something here, and that is that mockingbirds are just that: mockingbirds. I used to think that ‘nightingale’ was another acceptable name for them in English, but the problem is that it refers to the European bird from an entirely different family (Muscicapidae). Still, the popular name in Spanish ‘ruiseñor’ is used for both American and European. I also found out that in some places some like to refer to the northern mockingbird as the ‘American Nightingale’, but I don’t think it stuck because a mockingbird is a whole different bird AND song, as you very well said here.

    1. I’m traveling and using my ipad, and still haven’t figured out certain aspects of using it. I put my reply to your comment in a place where it won’t appear in your notifications. Click and this one, and you’ll find the “real” reply right next to it.

  43. I’ve never heard the term “American nightingale,” but then again, I’ve never heard a nightingale, or heard of one, except in poetry. It’s interesting that Spanish uses the same word for both.

    The same thing happened with the robin. The British robin is rather different from ours, but they call it “the robin” while ours is called by Europeans the “American robin.”

    As for songs, I’m sure the mockingbird could mimic a nightingale, if it happened to hear one.

    1. I found out about “The American Nightingale” in two or three forum discussions, which is probably the reason why it never succeeded in getting accepted as a term. What they probably meant was that it was as melodious as the one is Europe. Here’s a clip with the song: ( Personally, I find a bit of a resemblance to the mockingbird’s song, but in a superficial way though. The mockingbird has a much broader repertoire.

        1. The nightingale’s song is lovely — thanks for adding it here. I hope you have the chance to hear it “live” some day. What a delight that would be!

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