Mocker Intimidation equals Preservation

An impressive intruder

I wondered in April what possessed the mockingbird, singing his heart out incessantly, day and night. Now in June the importance of stamina, vocals and vigilance is apparent. There are three mockingbirds defending a nest in the neighbor’s flowering pear tree. The nest is tucked away maybe eight feet in the air, not high in the ficus as I had suspected. Pinau Merlin in her book A Guide to Southern Arizona Bird Nests and Eggs writes that mockingbirds build their nests 3-9 feet off the ground. They usually lay 3-5 blue green eggs about an inch in length and colored with splotches of red and brown. The nest was simple to locate by ear once the eggs hatched, since the hatchlings emit shrill feed-me calls pretty much non-stop.
The trio of mockingbirds has established a no fly zone around the nest that extends throughout our backyard and beyond. Grackles loitering insolently in small gangs, whistling and catcalling are not tolerated. The dog can’t catch a nap in the yard without endless hassling from the birds. The other night around eight I stepped outside and heard a soft hoot. Up on the rocks behind the house, a great horned owl leaned forward and thrust his tail up for balance while he projected his eerie call. But warrior mockingbird was on the scene almost immediately, buzzing angrily and chasing the big owl away.
Yesterday morning I glanced outside and there on the neighbor’s wall hulked a great turkey vulture. I was able to take pictures out the window as he cast his rather terrible red head from side to side, examining the area for a potential meal. He appeared relaxed, ruffling his shiny feathers, preening a little. Then he gave a long stare over his shoulder and began to step from foot to foot. Guess who? Yep, those fiesty mockingbirds were not going to allow such a presence. One kamikazi flew repeatedly at the vulture, actually brushing against the feathers on the huge bird’s back. Another mocker shrieked in outrage from nearby. After only three passes the turkey vulture lumbered into flight. Can you imagine the mockingbirds exchanging an exuberant high five? I’ve begun to wonder if it isn’t a game of intimidation for these birds, from the very start. They have terrorized the lot of us. This morning even I, their biggest champion, received a severe scolding just for venturing out to water my cantaloupe seedlings.
The hatchling mockers leave the nest after about 11-13 days, although they won’t be able to attain true flight for another week. During this time the parents will be on red alert, as they attempt to keep the grounded fledglings from harm and continue to feed them. Perhaps this period of extreme vulnerability is what the parents have been preparing for all along. It’s incredibly nerve wracking if you ask me.

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One response to “Mocker Intimidation equals Preservation

  1. Aaah! The mocker….a bird with true attitude. You have so captured the spirit..Ya gotta .love those guys! Nicely done…..

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