MockingbirdBob and I used to think the boat-tailed grackles were the looniest birds on the planet. With their clicking, whirring and strutting, they surely made no sense.

Bob thought the grackles probably wish they could make nice, normal, chirpy, birdlike sounds, but when they open their mouths, only squeaks and rattles come out. They sound like rusted pulleys, trash compactors and video games. A few had even mastered the ominous hawk sound used to foreshadow doom in movies and television.

We thought, grackles must be the weirdest birds in the world. But that was before we moved to Mockingbird Lane.

In a surprising moment of clarity, someone named Mockingbird Lane after a bird that actually lives here. Mockingbird Lane, in Denton, Texas is home to hundreds, and perhaps even thousands of Mockingbirds.

These song pirates make every sound imaginable and are as likely to repeat a phrase five times as twice. In fact, they seem to be trying to outdo each other. Their crazed vocalizations permeate every waking hour and a few of the non-waking ones, too.

The strangest thing about the Mockingbirds in our neighborhood is that they tweet, warble and whistle in the middle of the night. I’ve started looking at the clock when they detonate just to see if there’s a pattern and there is not. Full moon, or not, they wake us up two or three times a night at all different hours.

So, with nothing else to do, I lay there in the dark of the moon, trying to identify the bits and pieces of song they’ve pilfered, wondering whether I’m listening to one or two, or three birds. Wondering if the Mockingbirds have both night singers and day singers or if the day singers really meant to sleep through the night until some other creature woke them up. Wondering what the “blee-boop, blee-boop, cheweep, cheweep, cheweep” will do to my next dream.

But according to birders in the know, here’s what is really going on: the nocturnal songs are being sung by bachelor Mockingbirds who have not yet found mates. Mistaking the streetlights for the full moon, they are doing their best to lure a female with their serenade. And there you have it – a reasonable explanation for the bizarre behavior of some very strange birds

By Camille Armantrout

Camille lives with her soul mate Bob in the back woods of central North Carolina where she hikes, gardens, cooks, and writes.