Sunday, October 21, 2007

Echoes in a Mockingbird's Song

It is a warm, spring-like day here in Southern California. It is warm enough to have fooled at least one neighborhood mockingbird into thinking there is time left for one last romantic fling before winter. He is singing his little heart out. This is serendipitous (apparently my word of the week) as I got a card just yesterday from Anne about one of the most fascinating theories in ornithology.

The mockingbird is a prolific mimic. Thrushes, warblers, finches, the songs of the neighborhood birds fill the mockingbird's repertoire. He also grabs environmental sounds - I have heard mockingbirds mimic car alarms and human whistles. But, within his ranging performance are snatches of songs whose sources are elusive.

Some people believe these unknown songs are echoes from the past. That mockingbirds are passing down, father to son, the songs of birds now extinct. Perhaps all that is left of the Carolina Parakeet and the Bachman's Warbler is preserved in the mockingbird's collective memory of song. It is an intriguing thought for a warm autumn Sunday.

Art is by Roger Peterson.


PoliShifter said...

Sounds like it would be complicated to be an ornithologist recording mocking bird songs from around the country and then trying to match them to extinct species of birds. Sounds like tough work.

PoliShifter said...

OT - did you know Fat Cat passed away?