Singing birds: The joy of spring


“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy… They don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

– spoken by Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird

I realized on one very cold, dreary morning recently that part of what makes winter so stark is the silence. I miss the singing of the birds.

There is no greater joy than the first beautiful spring morning when the cries and calls of the songbirds awaken us. It’s hard for me to imagine living in the heart of a city for this reason alone!

Musical qualities. In 1870, John J. Audubon, writing in The Birds of America, described the appeal of the mockingbird with these words, “There is probably no bird in the world that possesses all the musical qualifications of this king of song, who has derived all from Nature’s self.”

I have always thought that the mockingbird, while it may not be the fanciest in plumage, is the best performer of them all, even showing up the sweet song of the nightingale.

In the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the mockingbird was profiled a couple of years back, and the article said that mockingbirds are great little mimics, attempting to warble a tune of a barking dog, squeaky gates, pianos, sirens, even the sound of a cackling hen!

The mockingbird is famous for mimicry of other birds. When captured on audio tape, it was nearly impossible to differentiate the original from the mockingbird’s “copy.”

Blue birds. While some would say that the mockingbird may be the most fun to listen to, I feel the bluebird is the most fun to share the planet with.

I am counting down the days to spring, looking forward to the return of our blue birds.

With the help of a determined bluebird fancier, Johnny Baker, we are seeing steadily rising numbers of successful blue birds nesting in our community. Johnny scopes out a place and he knows, by instinct and by experience, just the best place to place a bluebird box.

He advises that it is important to not place two boxes too close together, as bluebirds like their privacy. It is important to check the box every day to make sure other birds haven’t tried to take over – if a messy nest is being built, tear it out of there and clean the box well.

Bluebirds nests are clean and neat – once you’ve seen one, you know that the bluebirds build with no junk allowed.

I have enjoyed many evenings observing a bluebird pair, one watching the nest while the other flies to the high wires, then suddenly swooping over the fields for bugs.

Their eyesight is said to be so keen that they can spot a bug nearly a mile away. Now that makes for a keen hunter!

True joys. The true delight of late spring or early summer is the night that the bluebird babies take flight for the first time.

With our first batch of baby bluebirds, I stood and watched them with an unbelievable mixed feeling of joy and regret – I knew that they would not be returning to the nest. Our joy was coming to a screeching halt, while their joy was just taking flight.

I am looking forward to another joyous spring of bluebirds and songbirds. Are we there yet?


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.