Stacey Cole's Nature Talks: How to get mockingbird to go live somewhere else
A Northern mockingbird problem was told of by a Deering reader who, in a March 24 letter, wrote in part: "I have friends that live in Hampton, NH. The entire winter they have had a problem with a Mockingbird. The Mockingbird has taken over their backyard to the extent they do not have any other birds in their yard. They have not put out bird food all winter. Any bird that comes to their yard is immediately chased away. The Mockingbird feeds on berries in the yard. They want to know if you have a solution, i.e., how to get the Mockingbird to take up residence elsewhere. They have greatly missed all the usual birds that come, including three pair of Cardinals."
The northern mockingbird is noted for being very aggressive when it comes to protecting its territory. They are especially so around both their feeding and nesting territory. I suggest that the Hampton friends visit an Agway or other feed or grain store, and purchase a roll of what is known as "bird netting." This product is used to protect raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, and other plants from birds eating the berries. Since mockingbirds do not eat the usual seed mixes in bird feeders, but do enjoy fresh or dried fruit, I believe this particular mockingbird is aggressively protecting its food supply. Anything that would make it difficult for the bird to get at its berry supply should influence it to go elsewhere. When it leaves, I expect that little time will pass before the former feeder birds will again visit their feeding area.
In past years we have had letters expressing displeasure with northern mockingbird behavior. However, recollection tells me that the most frequent reader complaints had to do with their habit of singing throughout the night.
Mockingbirds do have beautiful, but strong voices, that carry very well. In the light of day, though, they are a delight to hear. Mockingbirds, both male and female, are very enthusiastic vocalists who not only vocalize while perched, but also in flight.
In Edward Howe Forbush's "Birds of Massachusetts and Other New England States," published and copyrighted by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1929, the author quoted Elizabeth and Joseph Grinnell, following their experience with a night-singing mockingbird: "On moonlit nights the inspired singer launches himself far into the air, filling the silvery spaces of the night with the exquisite swells and trills, liquid and sweet, of his unparalled melody. The song rises and falls, as the powers of the singer wax and wane, and so he serenades his mate throughout the live-long night. One such singer wins others to emulation and, as the chorus grows, little birds in the field and orchard wake just enough to join briefly in the swelling tide of avian melody."
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A March 25 letter from an Exeter reader-friend began: "Your column often takes me back. You wrote about the stone piles and their origin (March 23).
"Several of us hunted deer around Danforth, Maine, for a good many years on the border of Washington and Aroostook Counties. About 35 years ago we were out on the edge of an overgrown field and saw a large amount of stones. The pile was perhaps 25 feet in diameter and maybe 5 feet high - relying on my not the best of memory. The stones were baseball size and a little larger. I don't think there was a stone that you could not pick up in your hand. At the time we guessed they had been cleared from a potato field. We never did learn definitely, but there were sure a lot of them.
"The other day I looked out my window and saw a hawk sitting on top of a bird feeder that had an orange/tan striped chest. It flew before I could see and remember all of its features. Maybe a broad shouldered hawk? Could that be? I do not know my hawks."
As to the species of hawk our reader saw, the probability is that it was either a sharp-shinned or Cooper's. As a possibility, it may have been a broad-winged or a red-shouldered.
In the past few weeks hawks have begun their migration back into northern New England. Spring raptor migrations are not as noticeable as those in the fall as most species travel individually. In fall, most raptors travel in flocks from early September through late October. Broad-wings are a few inches shorter in length than red-shouldered hawks, but are roughly the same tip-to-bill length as are Cooper's and sharp-shinned hawks. The latter two, being accipiters, also present a "thinner" appearance and have reddish, striped-colored breasts. Broad-winged and red-shouldered hawks breast colors are darker than Cooper's and sharp-shinned.
Stacey Cole's address is 529 W. Swanzey Road, Swanzey 03446.
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