Thursday, September 9, 2010

Mockingbird attitude

Audubon print showing typical mockingbird attitude.

A few weeks ago, in Massachusetts, I saw a black rat snake crossing the road with a mockingbird swooping down at it over and over and over again. This seemed silly. Why would a big snake be scared off by a little mockingbird?

Well, I suppose it could alert a hawk to it's existence...but never mind that. I happen to know that mockingbirds pose a real threat.

A couple years ago, in the Jersey shore town of Lavalette, I heard the telltale ear-splitting whine of mockingbird babies (a mystery in and of itself) coming from a street-side holly bush. I was parting the foliage and peeking in at the nest when...wham!...the parent swooped down and slammed into my arm so hard that it actually hurt! The bird, which I was sure would not survive such a collision, flew to a nearby perch and kept up his/her complaining "check" notes.

A tropical mockingbird...different species, same attitude.

And this turned out not to be an isolated incident.

This summer, in another Jersey shore town (Bay Head), I was simply walking along the sidewalk - not bothering any nests, mind you - when...whoosh!...a mockingbird came down from the wire and grazed my hair! I imagine that I would have been thumped again if I had dared approach its nest.

What's with the attitude?

New Jersey comments aside, I'm guessing that mockingbirds are just juiced up on an abnormal amount of hormones during the breeding season. I have no proof. But they sing all night long. They even sing in flight, as I also observed this summer. And why else would they be ornery enough to perform full-force body-slams into creatures hundreds of times larger than themselves?

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