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BryanM
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I heard on a radio news/trivia feature this morning that an orinitholigist has found mockingbirds that imitate the sounds of car alarms perfectly. The birds will now pass these new 'songs' on to their offspring and to other mockingbirds and soon colonies of birds from coast to coast will be singing these irritating sounds.

Sounds too fishy to be true.


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Barbara
Layaway in a Manger


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Dunno about the "birds teaching other birds" bit, but the part about mockingbirds imitating car alarms is true -- I read of such a case in a 1997 Los Angeles Times article.

Barbara "mockingbirds make great presents for those you don't like" Mikkelson


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Bonnie
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Hrmmphh -- only a car alarm? Naturalist David Attenborough presented an amazing example of mimicry in birds in his TV documentary, "The Life of Birds,"

quote:
The lyrebird, which Sir David Attenborough meets on a log in a dense forest in Australia, is the bird world's best mimic. It can imitate 12 other birds. It does the whirring of a camera's motor drive and the click of a shutter. It repeats the engine of a car, and the din of a car alarm. It can even imitate the screech of the chainsaw wielded by the loggers coming to cut down its habitat.

You'll find an audio clip of the lyrebird's calls about three-quarters down the following page, http://www.pbs.org/lifeofbirds/songs/


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CatInHat
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^ birdsong smiley

There was an article in the paper (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) a while back about canary song competitions (I swear I'm not making this up). IIRC, the birds were judged on the length and complexity of their songs.

I'm not sure exactly how it worked, but one of the canary owners interviewed explained that it was important to expose your bird to a wide variety of music so as to increase their repertoire. He cautioned, however, against keeping your canary near the fax machine, as they would learn to imitate the sound.

So I wouldn't be surprised if mockingbirds did the same thing with car alarms.

Cat"I meant Pachalbel's Canon, not the fax machine!"InHat


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Kathy B
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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Rice University says
quote:
Mockingbirds mimic phrases from the songs of other birds, repeating each about 4 times. They may also imitate cats, dogs, and man-made sounds like squeaking doors and car alarms.

The Illinois Dept. Natural Resources says starlings are the mimics.

quote:
Some birds are able to mimic the songs of other birds (catbird, mockingbird), humans and car alarms (starling).

I found numerous other references, but decided just to post a governemtn & a university one, rather than personal birder comments (however, many of the birder comments were referenced).
Kathy "imitation is the sincerest form" B.

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Bonnie
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Now that we've confirmed that a number of birds can duplicate the sounds of car alarms and whatnot, we've yet to skewer the notion that baby mockingbirds are learning these "songs" from adult birds.

So, unless some ornithologist has documented cases of parental instruction in the art of car-alarm-imitation, I think the most parsimonious explanation for a purported increase in car-alarm-mimicry among mockingbirds is that greater numbers of mockingbirds are being exposed to greater numbers of car alarms. After all, the ability to mimic is hard-wired in these birds, and (if you're a male bird) expanding one's repertoire is a way to attract the attentions of potential mates.

How sad. It seems to me that if you're an adult mockingbird, assessing the potential of the junior members of the flock, it must be a bitter disappointment to discover you have to teach these knuckleheaded kids to do something that ought to come naturally to any self-respecting mockingbird.

Bonnie "honk if you love Jesus!" Taylor


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Bonnie
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Eh, I'll admit it: I underestimated the influence of the parents' natural song on their young, who imprint on their parents' voices and warbles. I suppose if mockingbird parents consistently imitated car alarms (even in the absence of car alarms) in addition to singing elements of their natural song, it's possible that youngsters who were not exposed to real car alarms could pick up the routine from their parents.

Bonnie "willing to change my tune" Taylor


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DataAngel
Xboxing Day


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There are mockingbirds around here who can mimic cordless and cellular phone rings. It's fun in the summertime... Everyone will be sitting out in the back yard, or on the front porch and suddenly a phone will ring. People will scramble to get in the house, or search the yard for where they left the portable phone.

Even if the birds aren't getting a laugh out of it, I certainly am.

--------------------
Me: So you’re saying Lucas is really an Ewok and was projecting his own ideas of god onto Anthony Daniels in a plastic hat.

E: Sure, if it will end this conversation, yes.


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CatInHat
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quote:
Originally posted by Bonnie:
How sad. It seems to me that if you're an adult mockingbird, assessing the potential of the junior members of the flock, it must be a bitter disappointment to discover you have to teach these knuckleheaded kids to do something that ought to come naturally to any self-respecting mockingbird.

Kids these days!

Cat"and if that mockingbird don't sing"InHat


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Lackwit
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I don't know about mockingbirds, but young nightingales certainly do learn songs from older nightingales (not necessarily their parents!). I'm not sure if it occurs outside of captivity, but possibly as early as 1000 AD the Japanese would teach nightingales an artificial song considered to be more lovely than the bird's natural warble. In order to teach young birds this song, they would cage them with a "nurse bird," a nightingale which knew the song. The young birds would pick up the song, so I don't think it's a stretch to suppose that young mockingbirds would learn a song or two from their parents if they encounter their parents at any period during adolescence.
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PaulUnwin
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Mocking Bird Imitates Car Alarm Perfectly (scroll to the bottom)

Oh, dear.

Paul"cukoo!cukoo!"Unwin


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ROBERT.BAK
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quote:
Originally posted by CatInHat:
"and if that mockingbird don't sing"

...I'll teach it to imitate a cellphone ring...


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Bonnie
The Red and the Green Stamps


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quote:
Mocking Bird Imitates Car Alarm Perfectly (scroll to the bottom)

Oh. Thanks for The Onion link, Paul. I feel slightly Mr.-Edified.

Bonnie "mynah annoyance" Taylor

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Se non è vero, è ben trovato.


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Paul Unwin
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On the other hand, Barbara claims

quote:
I read of such a case in a 1997 Los Angeles Times article.

Just because the Onion writes about it doesn't mean it couldn't happen (or hasn't happened). When Barbara writes this one up she can give us the actual date of the article. *hint, hint*

Paul "'Oh, NFBSK' says humanity" Unwin


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Barbara
Layaway in a Manger


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Los Angeles Times
March 15, 1997
SECTION: Metro; Part B; Page 1; Metro Desk
HEADLINE: CITYSCAPES / ABIGAIL GOLDMAN;
FEATHERED FRIEND? WOULD YOU BELIEVE SCREECHING SCOURGE?BYLINE: ABIGAIL GOLDMAN

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Paul Unwin
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Anyone interested in paying the two dollars to get a print-out of the archive from latimes.com?

Paul "My mom's not home. She had to take my brother to the hospital. My grandma dropped acid this morning, and she was really stressed out. She hijacked a busload full of... penguins. It's sort of a family crisis. Bye!" Unwin


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Bonnie
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http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_288774.html

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Se non è vero, è ben trovato.

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fermifan
The Red and the Green Stamps


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Have ya'll ever seen a wild mockingbird? I swear those things are the comic releif of the bird kingdom.

They just keep singing different things without a break in all different directions and it seems like they have an urgent message. Whenever one lands near me and does his thing I just want to go, "What's that?!?! Timmy's in a well???"


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TampaMan57
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I can personally attest to mockingbirds mimicing car alarms and also sirens from emergency vehicles. Do you think maybe that is why they call them "mocking" birds?... duh
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Paul Unwin
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quote:
Originally posted by TampaMan57:
I can personally attest to mockingbirds mimicing car alarms and also sirens from emergency vehicles. Do you think maybe that is why they call them "mocking" birds?... duh

The mocking aspect of mocking birds isn't in question, it's whether they actually mock anything other than birds.

Why the attitude?

Paul "You're... mocking me, aren't you?" Unwin


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TampaMan57
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quote:
Originally posted by Paul Unwin:

Why the attitude?

Paul "You're... mocking me, aren't you?" Unwin[/B]


Sorry about the attitude... It's just that it's pretty common knowledge down here in the Sunshine state (where the Mockingbird is the state bird) that they have been know to imitate car alarms, house alarms, ambulances and such. I am perplexed why so many find that so unusual when you consider the very nature of their name.


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rossdawg
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Jeff Daniels, Mike Starr and Jim Carrey are in a van covered with fake fur which is designed to look like a big dog.
Then Jim Carrey says "MOCK ....YEAH...BIRD...YEAH"

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TampaMan57
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quote:
Originally posted by rossdawg:
Jeff Daniels, Mike Starr and Jim Carrey are in a van covered with fake fur which is designed to look like a big dog.
Then Jim Carrey says "MOCK ....YEAH...BIRD...YEAH"

Huh? I guess you had to be there... Where that was... I haven't a clue


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smudge
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There's a mockingbird who sits at the top of a birch tree in my backyard that screeches his territorial song (?!) from dusk through dawn. I haven't heard any cellphone, fax or car alarm noises from him yet, but I wish he'd give the rest of his repetoire (sp?) a rest...

smu"if that mockingbird don't sing, I'd be very grateful "dge


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Chava
The Red and the Green Stamps


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Some years ago I had a dog with an annoying habit of whining when he wanted to come in the house. I noticed that I would often hear him whine, go outside, and find that he was asleep or otherwise occupied. It finally dawned on me that the neighborhood mockingbird was imitating my obnoxious dog.

Chava


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fermifan
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When I was in HS, we teens had our own phone line upstairs. We also had an African Grey parrot that immitated the phone ringing. So many times, we'd hear the phone ring and fly upstairs to get it but.....

That was annoying.

That parrot helped my brother out in his plight with my sister. He/she proved that my sister was always yelling at my brother because one of the first things he/she learned was "BILLY!!!" in my sister's voice.


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rossdawg
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Going back to my old reference it was from Dumb and Dumber...

Anyway, we have these two huge old pine trees in front of the house and all kinds of birds make their home or simply rest there when passing by. We also have mourning doves and they are the most obnoxious sounding things around. And we have katydids (or whatever makes that lawn sprinkler-like noise..they look like a hunk of slimey bug on a tree). Plus we have mockingbirds who copy all of these obnoxious sounding things. They also copy my neighbor's house alarm which used to go off for hours every weekend when they were away at educational conferences.


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Lacquitte, pas un pornographeur
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Wow...!

Right outside my window, right now, is a bird warbling a rather gorgeous melody--an actual melody, not just a twitter or a call.

LA TI DO RE TI DO SO LA...

It's introducing variations on this theme, as well. I can only assume the bird gleaned the song from a cell phone or something. It's like magic, really. It's very enchanting.


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ULTRAGLORIA
Markdown, the Herald Angels Sing


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Mocking birds imitate non-bird sounds.

We had one outside our bedroom window that imitated the local frogs. We called it a Mockingfrog.

ULTRA ribbit GOTHA

--------------------
A Lie can run around the world before the Truth can get its boots on. - Terry Pratchett

Everyone is entitled to their own opinions; but everyone is not entitled to their own facts. - Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan


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LizzyJingleBells
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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We used to have an outside ringer for our phone. That way, as we whiled away many a summer evening, we could hear the phone ringing and go answer it. Well, on several occasions, we would hear it, run inside, and find that the phone had not rung. One of the local Mocking birds had decided to start singing exactly like the ringer.

I think my dad disconected it after a while. We never really bothered to answer the phone anyway. But the bird continued to use that noise for a long time.

Lizzy "tweet tweet" Bean

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Come on, come on, we were once upon a time in love
If the only prayer you say in your life is thank you, that would suffice. - Meister Eckhart My Blog


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Gunther Burpus
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FWIW - and I didn't read all these posts - I have a Cockatiel can mimic the alarm on our truck.
-gb

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Phobos
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quote:
Originally posted by BryanM:
...and soon colonies of birds from coast to coast will be singing these irritating sounds.

Well, that is stretching it a bit. Mockingbirds can and do mimic a wide range of sounds. There's no reason for this one sound to become a rage among mockingbirds from coast to coast. More likely, they'll stay with their standard fare of mimicking other birds' songs.


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Mr. XXXX
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I sometimes heard birds who sounded damn like some ELECTRONIC GADGETS. Like cell phones, alarm clocks and so. And those things aren't THAT loud and can't be heard miles away.
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Finite Fourier Alchemy
Markdown, the Herald Angels Sing


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I heard it. It was last weekend while I was walking around the university botanical gardens.

As I passed a tree I heard an odd sound. It took me a moment to realize it was that oh-so-typical car alarm sound, but far more melodious. But the notes and timing were perfect - those two "whoooooooop" sounds followed by three quick buzzes was the thing that caught my attention.

I stood there for a moment and waited until I heard it again. I slowly approached the tree and saw a bird escape it. I think it was a mockingbird, but I'm not too sure.

In any case, I'm certain the bird was imitating the sound of a car alarm.

I was utterly amazed.

Alchemy

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Thinking about New England / missing old Japan


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Travicvs
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I have heard of birds in tropical climate imitating sounds of chainsaws from theos 'evil' rainforest cutter downer guys.
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