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Mockingbird Singing in Fall

Fall is when Mockingbirds have some of their most fascinating behavior, and since these birds are widespread and common, they are easy to watch even in your own backyard.

In September, both male and female Mockingbirds begin to define and defend territories, either together or separately, around sources of food, especially berries. They do this by perching conspicuously within the territory and giving loud song. Their song is a series of imitations of the calls and songs of other species, thus making it sound like there are a lot of different birds in the area.

They also give three calls that are rarely heard at other times of year: a "chick-chick" call, a "ch-ch-chick" call, and a "chewk" call. Accompanying these calls can be rapid chases and even fights between neighboring birds.

In fall, a Mockingbird defends his or her territory against three types of intruders. The first is flocks of other berry-eating birds, such as Robins, Cedar Waxwings, or Starlings, which are usually chased off with a few calls.

When a lone Mockingbird, a newcomer to the area, intrudes, the territory holder flies up to a conspicuous perch and gives the "chewk" call. Other neighboring mockingbirds also do the same on their own territories. Each will chase the newcomer if it tries to land.

There can also be intruding flocks of Mockingbirds that try to raid the berries of territory-holders. When a flock arrives, all of the Mockingbirds in the area may temporarily leave their territories and chase the flock out together.

In November, a final piece of behavior can be seen. This is called the Border-dance. In it, two birds land on the ground on either side of a common border. They stand with their tails up and their heads high and each hops back and forth and side to side. They may continue this display along the border. It can end in a fight or with each bird flying back into its territory.

As you can see, there is a lot to be looking for in Mockingbirds. Take a moment this fall to find and watch Mockingbirds in your area.

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