4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

The three loud mockingbirds of Charles Darwin

The species that doesn't remain static

Northern mocking bird: small body, big noise.
Northern mocking bird: small body, big noise.

Sunday morning. Trying to sleep in. No chance. Not one, not two, but three mockingbirds flit around and land in the tree right outside, going “Chuck! Chuck! Chuck!” Aggressively, non-stop.

“They’re mockingbirds alright,” says Jen Hajj later. She’s San Diego Audubon’s Events Membership Coordinator. “But they’re just saying ‘This is where I am going to be. Stay away.’ They are also doing their best to attract a mate. It’s usually repetitive. And they start this song very early in the morning.”

Great. There goes the sleep-in. But also, I can’t help thinking: three mockingbirds, sitting in the five-finger tree? It’s as though they’re talking to me. Makes me think of a BBC program on bird language where they electronically took away certain elements of human speech until people sounded exactly like birds, to demonstrate how we have many parts of our speech in common.

“Well, they used to be velociraptors,” says Jen. “Chickens, especially, have more T. Rex in their DNA than, say, mockingbirds.”

“That’s it!” I say. “The three mockingbirds! Charles Darwin! Voyage of HMS Beagle. The birth of evolution theory!” I’m remembering the picture of three actual mockingbirds Darwin collected in the Galapagos Islands, back in 1835. The Natural History Museum in London still has them, showing their slight variations, which sent a rocket through the scientific world. Those three mockingbirds from separate islands confirmed his suspicions that species don’t remain static. They adapt to differing conditions.

Jennifer Hajj.

And according to Phys.org, there’s a big effort to reintroduce a single mixed population of mockingbirds to the Galapagos island of Floreana, where they went extinct sometime after Darwin visited. Of course, according to Jen, my three guys here are Northern mockingbirds, part of a robust year-round population which has to fear only two things: cats (cats kill an unbelievable 3.7 billion birds every year in the US, according to a Smithsonian study, not to mention 20.7 billion small mammals), and climate change.

“Right now, climate change applies more to migrant songbirds than your resident mockingbirds,” says Jen. “Until now, when they get where they’re going, they’ve always had these resources to fly to. Like when birds are leaving Mexico, it might be the same time caterpillars are starting to hatch. Now they may be hatching later. Or more dry conditions may mean those caterpillars aren’t hatching at all. So birds get to that place and they’re exhausted. So ready to eat, and there’s nothing.”

The great man - Charles Darwin. It started with three mocking birds.

Now she’s reading from her birding Bible, the Birder’s Handbook. “Mockingbirds’ cup-shaped nest is tended by both the male and female. They lay 3-5 blue-green eggs, heavily marked with brown spots. Incubation is about 14 days. Then it takes another 14 days for the kiddos to fledge. So a month before they can fly to safety. This is when you should be locking your cats up.”

Me, I’m more concerned with the adaptation of my own species. I’m going to have to deal with being woken up, every day, before dawn, by that three-mockingbird “Chuck! Chuck! Chuck!” chorus. It’s probably been going on since dinosaur times. I can just hear those poor sleep-deprived velociraptors yelling “Shyaddaaaap!”

No wonder they went extinct.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Curryosity serves South Asia in South Park

“It’s like eating at the Taj Mahal, but set in, like, New York.”
Next Article

Cathedral City, an artsy desert town you shouldn’t ignore

The Pelton Cottage has an upcoming open house on Feb. 27th.
Northern mocking bird: small body, big noise.
Northern mocking bird: small body, big noise.

Sunday morning. Trying to sleep in. No chance. Not one, not two, but three mockingbirds flit around and land in the tree right outside, going “Chuck! Chuck! Chuck!” Aggressively, non-stop.

“They’re mockingbirds alright,” says Jen Hajj later. She’s San Diego Audubon’s Events Membership Coordinator. “But they’re just saying ‘This is where I am going to be. Stay away.’ They are also doing their best to attract a mate. It’s usually repetitive. And they start this song very early in the morning.”

Great. There goes the sleep-in. But also, I can’t help thinking: three mockingbirds, sitting in the five-finger tree? It’s as though they’re talking to me. Makes me think of a BBC program on bird language where they electronically took away certain elements of human speech until people sounded exactly like birds, to demonstrate how we have many parts of our speech in common.

“Well, they used to be velociraptors,” says Jen. “Chickens, especially, have more T. Rex in their DNA than, say, mockingbirds.”

“That’s it!” I say. “The three mockingbirds! Charles Darwin! Voyage of HMS Beagle. The birth of evolution theory!” I’m remembering the picture of three actual mockingbirds Darwin collected in the Galapagos Islands, back in 1835. The Natural History Museum in London still has them, showing their slight variations, which sent a rocket through the scientific world. Those three mockingbirds from separate islands confirmed his suspicions that species don’t remain static. They adapt to differing conditions.

Jennifer Hajj.

And according to Phys.org, there’s a big effort to reintroduce a single mixed population of mockingbirds to the Galapagos island of Floreana, where they went extinct sometime after Darwin visited. Of course, according to Jen, my three guys here are Northern mockingbirds, part of a robust year-round population which has to fear only two things: cats (cats kill an unbelievable 3.7 billion birds every year in the US, according to a Smithsonian study, not to mention 20.7 billion small mammals), and climate change.

“Right now, climate change applies more to migrant songbirds than your resident mockingbirds,” says Jen. “Until now, when they get where they’re going, they’ve always had these resources to fly to. Like when birds are leaving Mexico, it might be the same time caterpillars are starting to hatch. Now they may be hatching later. Or more dry conditions may mean those caterpillars aren’t hatching at all. So birds get to that place and they’re exhausted. So ready to eat, and there’s nothing.”

The great man - Charles Darwin. It started with three mocking birds.

Now she’s reading from her birding Bible, the Birder’s Handbook. “Mockingbirds’ cup-shaped nest is tended by both the male and female. They lay 3-5 blue-green eggs, heavily marked with brown spots. Incubation is about 14 days. Then it takes another 14 days for the kiddos to fledge. So a month before they can fly to safety. This is when you should be locking your cats up.”

Me, I’m more concerned with the adaptation of my own species. I’m going to have to deal with being woken up, every day, before dawn, by that three-mockingbird “Chuck! Chuck! Chuck!” chorus. It’s probably been going on since dinosaur times. I can just hear those poor sleep-deprived velociraptors yelling “Shyaddaaaap!”

No wonder they went extinct.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

White pelicans not plunge diving at Dixon

Brown pelicans haven’t figured out the freshwater action
Next Article

Three of San Diego's most accessible waterfalls

Green Valley Falls, Borrego Palm Canyon, Peñasquitos Canyon
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories Fishing Report — What’s getting hooked from ship and shore From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Theater — On stage in San Diego this week Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close