Rude Mockingbird Sings Loudly All Night, Will Not Shut Up

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A male mockingbird has taken up residence in Precita Valley, near the intersection of Precita and Shotwell. And as male mockingbirds are wont to do this time of year, Precitaville’s mockingbird has been singing his little avian heart out during nighttime hours — and he is loud as hell.

Here’s what the damn bird sounded like at approximately 12:37 am last night:

Why? Why do mockingbirds sing at night? What is the purpose of their nocturnal crooning? While prevented from sleep by the singing of this mockingbird last night, Bernalwood found a Los Angeles Times article from 1987 that provides some insight:

Research has shown that mockingbird males, like songbirds everywhere, sing to attract mates and to advertise territorial boundaries–during the day–but unlike most birds, they also sing at night for hours on end during the spring and summer. This piqued my curiosity. I was trained as a biologist, and while no longer doing “official” research, I am not above a speculation or two or even a simple, easy-to-do experiment. The results and the conclusions can be provocative and can also run counter to folklore. Mockingbirds, for instance, are not singing out of joy or pleasure as is commonly believed. Much of the time, they sing out of desperation. [...]

Like most songbirds, [mockingbirds] have evolved a system of parceling up the land, which acts as a kind of natural farm, with the males defending the boundaries. They rarely fight physically, though, presumably because injury is too costly at a time when a bird needs all its strength just to break even in the energy economics of life. But there is usually no need to fight, because the vigor and skill of your song gives a good idea of the vigor and skill of your body–should a little more convincing be necessary.

The odds are that [a mockingbird near the author's home] was locked in musical combat for his family’s survival. And singing was the measure of his substance and grit. If he got sick or injured, or old, that would also come out in his song, and his neighbors would probably start to encroach.

PHOTO: Northern Mockingbird, via Wikipedia

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32 thoughts on “Rude Mockingbird Sings Loudly All Night, Will Not Shut Up

  1. We have one at Moultrie/Ogden, too. Luckily he confines his serenades to twilight hours (and our bedroom does not face his habitat).

  2. “Now, everybody have you heard?”, and another in the lesser Mullen/Alabama corridor. He also, is relegating his outburst stylings to the early am, mainly from atop the phone pole.

  3. I grew up in Bernal Heights (family still lives there), but now live in Brisbane. I had one right outside my bedroom window one night. I thought I was going to go insane with his nonstop repertoire, but felt better after a little online research. The research I found stated it was the male that sings (makes a racket), while he is trying to attract a mate, which should happen in a couple of days. True to the information I received, it was just that one night. I was relieved. Being a bird lover, I do love watching them in my yard, love how they mimic all of the other birds in the neighborhood, and wish them no harm. I do admit to homicidal thoughts that night though when it was in a tree right outside my bedroom window. Knowing that if it happens again it will be short lived helps. Although I see them in my yard and my neighbor’s yard flying overhead from tree to tree daily, I was only disturbed by them that one night in five years. Maybe try earplugs?

  4. Ah, you’ve finally identified where that retched noise is coming from. I shall bring a crate of cats and see about this problem!

  5. FINALLY someone wrote about this! We have been dealing with this for months now and it is by far the most annoying thing to wake up to in the wee hours of the morning. Its amazing how they change their song every 5-7 seconds so that humans can’t acclimade themselves and fall back asleep. I am pro anything to silence these creatures!

  6. I don’t want to hear it, we’ve got the marauding parrots over here on the east side, and they’ve been waking us up around 5-5:30 every day for a couple weeks now. :(

  7. He does make a lot of noise, but for some reason he makes me happy…..he has a beautiful song, which just happens to be right outside my bedroom window on Prentiss. He sings me to sleep.

    • Me too, though mine has better timing and begins at 6 am. I marvel at the variety of songs. Such a treat.

  8. You realize this is the premise of the Québécois children’s song Alouette? It basically goes:

    Lark, gentle lark, I am going to rip off your beak.
    Lark, gentle lark, I am going to rip off your head.

    It was a lark, but same difference…

    • But I got more money than he does. Money buys property, and with it the right to determine who can afford to live in this neighborhood. All this squawking and flapping of wings over quaint, and outmoded notions of territory are, quite frankly, embarrassing to the city of San Francisco. There are plenty more trees in Oakland – he should just shut his beak and move. At least, that’s the way I’m understanding the new normal round these parts.

  9. FEEL GRATEFUL that it’s not like the mockingbird that was once outside my window. As most of you know, mocikingbirds imitate the songs of other birds. Well, they don’t just imitate birds, but they can imitate other sounds they hear. The one outside my window imitated the hammering that had been going on during the daytime as carpenters were building a new deck on the house next door. So I was serenaded by a fairly good imitation of hammering for about 3 days.

    • We had a car alarm go off nightly for nearly 2 weeks. The owner finally got it fixed, and we enjoyed one night of peace before our resident Nightingale started imitated the bloody car alarm. Poor guy thought some youngblood was muscling in on his territory with a new tune. Thankfully that only lasted a few nights

  10. Ahh, when I first heard one (same one?) a year or 2 ago it made me think: I know what it feels like to want “to kill a mockingbird”! Just let me sleep! And don’t keep my Airbnb guests up ;)

  11. Walking down fabulous Gates Street in beautiful Cortlandia after leaving one of its popular drinking establishments one night, I was greeted, serenaded or assaulted (pick one) by strident avian sounds straight out of a Tarzan movie. Crikey what a racket!

  12. A mockingbird has taken over the Revere elementary area every year for the past five years. (I doubt it’s the same one.) Some years he must be a real stud because it only takes one or two nights of crooning to land a lady in his love nest.

    Last year, though, he sang his poor little heart out for two weeks. I started to think maybe all the other Mockingbirds had abandoned Bernal and he was the lonely outcast that didn’t get the message. So reading these reports of other territories around the Hill is a relief.

    And last week, Mr. Lonely Heart only sang for one night.

    I’ve never felt so invested in the sexual success of another living creature…

  13. Wow, thanks for this! I’ve been trying to figure out what kind of bird that was for months. I started shopping for for a phone app to try it identify it (Shazam for birdcalls?). I used to live in a place with lots of songbirds every morning and evening, so I think the mockingbirds are great, no matter how loud. Sorry, all you light sleepers. At least it’s got to be better than the air brakes on the trucks on 101.

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