Who’s That Singing at Night?

northern mocking bird singing
Northern Mockingbird Singing; Photo Credit: Deborah Rivel


Are your silent nights filled with birdsong? For some, it’s a beautiful way to fall asleep. For others, it’s nerve-wracking. If you are in the latter category, it might help to know that the singer likely shares your frustration. Many birds that sing all night during the breeding season are Mockingbirds who are either young birds who haven’t found a mate, or older birds who sadly have lost theirs. They are desperate to find someone during this tiny window for breeding and if the lovely songs they sing in repetition all day long just arent bringing in the girls, then they go for it again at night.


Mockingbirds are mimids which means they find sounds they like and repeat them. They can repeat different bird calls or sounds around them with amazing accuracy. They are even able to mimic toads and frogs! Sometimes they will take a series of bird calls and get creative – mixing up the components of the call to include the sounds of several birds! They continue to add sounds throughout their lives and their repertoires may include more than a couple of hundred songs – some of which they sing only once! They also might have a different playlist for spring than fall. Mockingbirds are some of the more creative avian singers and Thomas Jefferson had a pet Mockingbird named Dick who lived with him at the White House. But Jefferson was not alone in keeping a pet Mockingbird. As late as the 19th C there were so many Mockingbirds taken from the wild to be caged as pet birds that they became threatened with extinction on the east coast of the US.


So, next time you hear a Mockingbird singing, remember they have a huge creative streak and have returned from near decimation by the pet trade. For more info about these creative singers, check out this Cornell piece.