THE MOCKING BIRD.

THE Mocking Bird is regarded as the chief of songsters, for in addition to his remarkable powers of imitation, he is without a rival in variety of notes. The Brown Thrasher is thought by many to have a sweeter song, and one equally vigorous, but there is a bold brilliancy in the performance of the Mocker that is peculiarly his own, and which has made him par excellence the forest extemporizer of vocal melody. About this of course there will always be a difference of opinion, as in the case of the human melodists.

So well known are the habits and characteristics of the Mocking Bird that nearly all that could be written about him would be but a repetition of what has been previously said. In Illinois, as in many other states, its distribution is very irregular, its absence from some localities which seem in every way suited being very difficult to account for. Thus, according to "Birds of Illinois," while one or two pairs breed in the outskirts of Mount Carmel nearly every season, it is nowhere in that vicinity a common bird. A few miles further north, however, it has been found almost abundant. On one occasion, during a three mile drive from town, six males were seen and heard singing along the roadside. Mr. H. K. Coale says that he saw a mocking bird in Stark county Indiana, sixty miles southeast of Chicago, January , 1884; that Mr. Green Smith had met with it at Kensington Station, Illinois, and that several have been observed in the parks and door-yards of Chicago. In the extreme southern portion of the state the species is abundant, and is resident through the year.

The Mocking Bird does not properly belong among the birds of the middle or eastern states, but as there are many records of its nesting in these latitudes it is thought to be safe to include it.

     

Mrs. Osgood Wright states that individuals have often been seen in the city parks of the east, one having lived in Central Park, New York city, late into the winter, throughout a cold and extreme season. They have reared their young as far north as Arlington, near Boston, where they are noted, however, as rare summer residents. Dr. J. A. Allen, editor of The Auk, notes that they occasionally nest in the Connecticut Valley.

The Mocking Bird has a habit of singing and fluttering in the middle of the night, and in different individuals the song varies, as is noted of many birds, particularly canaries. The song is a natural love song, a rich dreamy melody. The mocking song is imitative of the notes of all the birds of field, forest, and garden, broken into fragments.

The Mocker's nest is loosely made of leaves and grass, rags, feathers, etc., plain and comfortable. It is never far from the ground. The eggs are four to six, bluish green, spattered with shades of brown.

Wilson's description of the Mocking Bird's song will probably never be surpassed: "With expanded wings and tail glistening with white, and the bouyant gayety of his action arresting the eye, as his song does most irresistably the ear, he sweeps around with enthusiastic ecstacy, and mounts and descends as his song swells or dies away. And he often deceives the sportsman, and sends him in search of birds that are not perhaps within miles of him, but whose notes he exactly imitates."

Very useful is he, eating large spiders and grasshoppers, and the destructive cottonworm.



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