Hi all,

   The idea of identifying winter ranges from songs that are mimicked is neat, 
and while it may not work for Northern Mockingbirds, it possibly could be used 
for other species.  I know of only a single person who ever tried doing this 
(there could easily be more…I don’t know the song literature at all), and he 
was trying to identify where the few Marsh Warblers that nest in England spend 
the winter in Africa.  As best I know, that part of the student’s research 
never came to fruition.
   As an aside, if you’ve got a few minutes, you can listen to Marsh Warbler 
recordings either at the Macaulay Library (a bird mimicking at least Great Tit, 
Barn Swallow, Skylark, House Sparrow, and Chiffchaff: 
http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/71611), or a marathon song session at 
xeno-canto: http://www.xeno-canto.org/135647 .  I find it interesting that 
these two mimics (mockingbirds and Marsh Warblers), although not at all closely 
related, some roughly the same sort of song quality: jarring, abrupt notes with 
very few whistles.

   Oh, and while mockingbirds can have repertoires of a couple hundred song 
types, these are not necessarily all mimicked songs of other species, but just 
recognizable and repeated phrases.  “Sampled” sounds from other species just 
happen to be part of the mix of phrases that the birds can use.


From: bounce-116224129-3494...@list.cornell.edu 
[mailto:bounce-116224129-3494...@list.cornell.edu] On Behalf Of Mike Pitzrick
Sent: Sunday, June 08, 2014 9:40 AM
To: Richard Tkachuck
Subject: Re: [cayugabirds-l] Mockingbirds on our house

Hi Richard,
The range map for Northern Mockingbird in Birds of North America indicates that 
they breed as far north as southern Ontario, and are permanent residents as far 
north as Watertown, NY.  Regarding migratory habits, BNA says it is
Not well understood. Reported to be partly migratory in northern portion of 
range, but at least some individuals remain in winter at northern limits of 
breeding range. Perceptions of status could be affected by reduced visibility 
of mockingbirds during winter.

About the number of songs types one bird can make,
The vocal repertoires of individual males have been estimated to be as low as 
45 and as high as 203 song types ... Song types appear to be added continuously 
to the vocal repertoire, suggesting that an individual bird may not have an 
upper limit to its repertoire.

The BNA account does not appear to address the issue of the fidelity of 
mimicry, so I will venture into the realm of my own impressions of how 
mockingbird mimicry can be distinguished from the songs of birds they imitate.  
I would welcome commentary from others who have similar or different 

BNA mention that
Mockingbirds typically repeat one song type several times before switching to 
another. Songs are presented in “bouts,” with each bout consisting of 
repetitions of only one song type. Song types of short duration are repeated 
more often within a bout than are longer song types

This suggests one of the cues that might clue me into the fact that I'm hearing 
an imitation of a cardinal song rather than a real cardinal song.  The 
mockingbird is likely to make several identical repetitions of the same 
cardinal song in a pretty short time frame.

Beyond that, it appears to me that while many aspects of the cardinal song are 
faithfully reproduced to my ear, there are definitely alterations.  To me, a 
real cardinal song has more dynamic range, more change in pitch, more variety 
between repetitions of the same song, more variability in song length, etc.

To anthropomorphize, when I hear a real cardinal, I sometimes form a mental 
image of an opera singer.  I hear years of voice lessons.  Each note is milked 
for every possible ounce of melodrama and emotion.  I can almost see the 
exaggerated facial expressions.

The mockingbird reminds me more of an advanced beginner pianist.  The 
repertoire is getting to be quite large and increasing every week, but each of 
the pieces is of similar length because it gets boiled down to a single page in 
the piano lesson book.  The performance is lacking in dynamic range, change of 
tempo, and creativity.  Each repetition is rendered mechanically and 
identically.  My impression is that of a rote performance.
Does this ring true for other observers?
Richard, I'm guessing you would really enjoy reading The Singing Life of 
 by Donald Kroodsma.  The book discusses Northern Mockingbird among other 
species, comes with a CD, and is full of sonograms.


On Sat, Jun 7, 2014 at 8:25 AM, Richard Tkachuck 
<rictkal...@gmail.com<mailto:rictkal...@gmail.com>> wrote:
A mockingbird has selected our house as a place to display his wide variety of 
sounds from early morning until the sun sets. This has raised some questions.
1, How large a collection of different sounds can one bird make?
2. I recognize some of the sounds. Would a cardinal be confused in hearing his 
3. Are the sonograms of a mockingbird and a cardinal about the same, or can you 
tell them apart.
4. Mockingbirds migrate. Can you tell where they spent the winter by the songs 
they sing?
5. Do mockingbirds make calls of predators like owls or hawks?

Richard Tkachuck
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