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Mockingbirds can wear out their welcome

Larry Woody, Outdoors Writer • Dec 15, 2015 at 2:57 PM

Oh, to kill a mockingbird.

With apologies to Harper Lee, that thought has crossed my mind since a pair of the shrill serenaders set up housekeeping in a bush outside the bedroom window.

Mockingbirds are early risers -- usually a two or three hours before sunrise -- and they wake up chirping. Their "tra-a-la-tweedle-dee-dee" is shrill and incessant and can drive you nuts when you're trying to sleep.

This isn't my first bout with mockingbirds. Years ago when I worked nights at a newspaper, I generally got in bed around 2 a.m. A pair of mockingbirds would start chirping about the time my head hit the pillow.

I don't know why they insist on living in bushes outside bedroom windows -- maybe it's just for plain aggravation.

Billy Brewer, former Old Miss football coach, years ago told some visiting sportswriters a humorous story about a mockingbird that kept waking him up. One chilly pre-dawn Billy finally exploded. He jumped out of bed, grabbed a broom, ran outside and began swatting the bush in which the bird lived.

When Billy dashed outside, the door slammed closed behind him -- and locked. He said if the police had driven by and saw a man in his pajamas beating a bush with a boom in the moonlight, his coaching days might have been over.

I share Billy's mockingbird misery. I've grown fond of sleeping late since my night-owl newspaper days.

I admit, mockingbirds are fascinating. When they spot an insect in the grass, they zoom in like a heat-seeking missile. I've watched them snatch bugs out of mid-air.

If a cat comes around, they dive-bomb it, screeching and squawking. I almost feel sorry for the cat.

A mockingbird can sing at least 200 different songs and mimic the calls of insects, amphibians and even mechanical noises. Some are said to be able to imitate the ring of a call phone.

Ornithologists don't know why they do it. Mischief, I reckon.

When our granddaughter Makayla was a little girl she nicknamed a neighborhood mockingbird "Mister Sing-a-Long."

The mockingbird is Tennessee's state bird and, like all song birds, is a protected species. So no matter how irritating one might be, you're not allowed to wring its neck. I'm not sure what the law is in Mississippi about swatting one with a broom, as Coach Brewer attempted.

I don't know if the two mockingbirds that showed up the other day plan to hang around for some sunrise serenading later in the spring. If they do, the bushes outside the bedroom windows may have to go. Mister Sing-a-Long gets up too early to suit me.

Too bad mockingbirds don't come with snooze-control.

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