From high atop the white pine tree in the front yard, a mockingbird broadcasts a variety of popular bird songs. He doesn’t take requests. But if you listen long enough, you’re sure to hear your favorite.
This avian DJ begins with the loud screech of the blue jay, shouting “thief, thief!” Next up is the cardinal’s more mellow call, “what cheer, what cheer!” followed by the house sparrow’s “chee, chee!”
Abruptly, the program switches tempo with the rapid “Peter, Peter, Peter,” of the tufted titmouse. Just as quickly, he slows to the quail’s steady call of “Bob White,”.
Often, on summer nights, I awake to hear the mockingbird’s late show. In the morning, the tunes continue, sometimes in stereo. He leaves the pine tree and perches on the lightning rod of the house. There he performs duets with a mockingbird in a nearby silver maple. Occasionally, they include environmental sounds such as a ringing phone or a cat meowing.
I admire their ability to mimic other birds and their dedicated practice. Yet, I’m puzzled. Why do they spend so much time developing a repertoire of other bird sounds rather than their own? Does it benefit them somehow? In fact, it does.
Male mockingbirds who’ve mastered a wide range of calls are more attractive to females. They’re usually older and possess strong survival skills which they can pass along to their offspring. These males may have large territories, rich in foods like insects and fruit. Mockingbirds call to warn birds of other species away from their territory. Therefore, mimicry is a key element of their identity.
Humans engage in mimicry too. Like the young mockingbirds developing their repertoire, I have emulated the actions and speech or adopted the opinions of others to fit in with a particular group. Imitation sometimes left me feeling lost in the crowd. When I adopted positive traits which led to spiritual and personal growth, I received benefits. I discovered my identity and my role in the community.
So, I sing the praises of mockingbird radio and its 24-hour, nonstop entertainment.
“Therefore, imitate God like dearly loved children. Live your life with love, following the example of Christ, who loved us and gave himself for us.” Ephesians 5:1-2