Bird Watcher's General Store

Mockingbirds Sing at Night - 07/20/01


Dear Bird Folks,

I really enjoy the birds in my yard, but there is this one crazy bird, I think a mockingbird, that chooses the middle of the night to sing. I'm the world's lightest sleeper and this bird starts about 2 a.m. and keeps me awake for hours. Why is it singing and when will it stop?

-Yawning in Yarmouth

Yo Yawning,

"Yawning in Yarmouth," wasn't that a Tom Hanks' movie? Yes, your crazy bird is, indeed, a mockingbird. And you are not alone, lots of people are being awakened by mockers this summer. You may want to look into starting some kind of late night support group. Why your mockingbird is up singing so late is anybody's guess. Perhaps it's been eating too much chili or it is just coming home from working the late shift at Bud's Go-Karts.

Believe it or not, many birds sing at night in the summer. Like you, the warm weather makes them light sleepers, too. I was out for a walk late last night and heard both a cardinal and a song sparrow singing. For most birds, it is usually just a short burst of song, almost like they just had a bad dream. Or maybe they just had a real good dream, after all, they were singing. But mockingbirds, apparently, are truly light sleepers or light singers. A moonlit night or other bright light causes them to wake up and sing, sometimes for hours. But it is not just any mocker that is singing, most of the time it is unmated males that are singing. Mated birds are too tired from raising kids to do any late night singing, but male mockers, who have not yet found a date for the summer, aren't about to let a little darkness cramp their style.

The bad news is that there is little you can do, except to hope for a lunar eclipse to darken the night-time sky. The good news is that soon the mating instinct will leave the luckless males and they will give up singing and join a monastery. In the meantime, Yawning, try a glass of warm milk, or do some reading (just don't read "To Kill a Mockingbird"), or watch CSPAN. That will put anyone to sleep.



Artwork by Catherine Clark


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