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Dear PoPville – Birds making car alarm noises

by Prince Of Petworth May 10, 2011 at 1:30 pm 35 Comments

“Dear PoP,

I recently relocated to Rock Creek Church Road NW and have been hearing a bird make the entire sequence of car alarm noises EVERY MORNING. This morning, for the first time, I heard the bird start replicating MY car alarm. Any idea what kind of bird this is (I looked up mockingbirds, who do imitate car noises), but none are native to this area.”

I’m guessing it’s a Starling which are plentiful in DC:

“Starlings have diverse and complex vocalizations, and have been known to embed sounds from their surroundings into their own calls, including car alarms, and human speech patterns.”

Totally wild.

  • Hoodrat

    I’m pretty sure I have seen mockingbirds around here. The video is fuzzy but it looks like it may be a mockingbird.

    • Prince Of Petworth

      I think the video above was just sent in as an example but isn’t the specific bird the OP is referencing.

  • Kim

    we definitely have mockingbirds here. i’m a fan a nature but these little buggars are the bane of my existence. i nearly had to move out of my last apartment because one took up residence right out side and they go for 20 hours a day straight. i nearly lost my marbles. i’m not a bird expert but i’d say that’s a mockingbird, not a starling.

  • MichelleRD

    Mockingbirds do indeed live in DC. Watch your head when you’re walking by. This is the season when they conduct diving attacks on anyone/anything near their nests.

    • I used to hold my dog on a tight leash when we were getting the dive-bomb treatment, but then I decided that any bird dumb enough to get too close to my dog’s mouth deserves what it gets.

      (yes, she’s caught birds and squirrels while on leash)

  • steve

    thanks, this video made my day.

  • Anonymous

    I like it when mockingbirds in DC add to their repertoire the shrill of hawks.

  • Adams Morgan (not AdMo)

    No idea where the OP got their information, but mockingbirds totallylive in this area.

  • MotoMoe

    We had some angry mockingbirds in a pine tree as a kid, just outside of DC. No joke: these ones only went after the blonde kids in the neighborhood. If I had ever wanted to change my brunette hair, witnessing an attack straight out of BIRDS cured me.

  • Anonymous

    Not to go back to beating this particular dead horse, but if one of those living outside your bedroom window doesn’t make a case for banning car alarms, I don’t know what would. Kim, you have my sympathy.

    • What about banning mockingbirds?

      • inwdc

        What about banning cars?

        • How about banning windows?

          • inwdc

            Yes! I’m glad someone finally said it. Windows are so annoying, I hate looking through them. Transparent little f*ckers.

  • toes

    The Northern Mockingbird – Mimus polyglottos – http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Northern_Mockingbird/id

    This area is most certainly in their range and I doubt very seriously that this bird is imitating a car alarm…it sounds more like it is imitating a Brown Thrasher, a Catbird and maybe some of that annoying chatter from trans Atlantic Shakespeare enthusiast experiment gone awry, the European Starling…man I hate those things.

  • Anonymous

    Could be worse… It could be a superb lyrebird outside your window:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjE0Kdfos4Y

    • Kam

      Could be a lot worse. At least you don’t hear gunshots as some of us do.

  • Yup. Northern Mockingbird. They’re quite common here. One woke me up at 2:45am Sunday night/Monday morning. It just.Would.Not.STFU.
    It’s times like that I begin to understand why Audubon shot so many of them

  • inwdc

    This is nature’s way of flipping the bird (so to speak) to humans in response to all the ass-holey things we do to it.

  • ZZinDC

    Thank you for this post – I have been hearing the same thing recently, though I live at 17th & T, so maybe not the same bird. (Maybe they’re all doing it – wouldn’t that be bad?) To be honest I have been wondering what this noise was – mine is far enough away to be heard but not be annoying; it never occurred to me that it could be a mockingbird mimicking a car!

  • Anonymous

    Our next door neighbor has a loud, squeaky oven door that makes a very distinctive noise every time he opens and closes it when he’s cooking dinner. It’s loud enough that we can hear it from our house. I’ve noticed that a bird in our backyard – probably a mockingbird – has taken to mimicking the noise of this oven door opening and closing…

  • 14th St Heights

    I absolutely love this. yes, it’s a mockingbird and they can be noisy, but arent’ we lucky to have this in the city. Thanks for posting this wonderful video.

  • saf

    We have one of those in our alley too – just west of Georgia.

    I hate mockingbirds.

  • Angry Parakeet

    Years ago The Onion had an article about a mockingbird mimicking car alarms. “Guess it must have heard it from one of those BMWs in the doctor’s parking lot at the hospital”

  • victoria

    Mockingbirds are common around here and have been mimicking car alarms since they were invented. There are several fledglings in Meridian Hill Park right now – really fun to watch them learning to fly. Just go hang out a while and look around. If you are anywhere near a nest or a fledgling, you will know it.

  • Arianna

    That’s the same set of sounds I’ve heard Mockingbirds make since I was small girl 30 years ago. I grew up in a small town in Georgia where car alarms didn’t exist.

    The marvel here is that we’re now more familiar with car alarms than with birds.

    • jim

      EXACTLY! +100

  • Mockingbirds are a blessing and if one keeps you awake by excessive singing then consider yourself lucky. I heard a mockingbird on Warder Street this evening. You know them by the white striped ruffles in their tails when they fly around and yes they can be agressive, though rarely and who can blame them. I had one follow me home from P Street beach when I rode home on my bike once and it stayed near my window for the whole summer. Mockingbirds sing in the morning and at dusk and sometimes overnight. They are soloists and don’t hang in flocks. I Happen to love mockingbirds. If you don’t like mockingbirds, please go away from me. I accidentally killed one with a rat trap by using peanut butter so I strongly recommend cheese. Oy

  • Anomynous

    Glad they can’t do police sirens and gunshots!

  • Pahbs

    While we’re on the subject of birds, listen for the buzz of neotropical migrants who are passing through these days. Warblers, vireos, tanagers etc are temporarily taking over the wooded areas of the region. If you can spot one, they are typically very colorful, it is kinda thrilling. Youll need binoculars.

  • ET

    My cat hats Mockingbirds (those he loves to bird watch) because, well they mock him. When I have my front door open and he sits in the doorway to soak up the sun the sit on the handrail and stare at him.

  • mbm

    Holy crap,
    I just said to my wife yesterday that I swore a bird out back has taken to imitating our home phone. Our home phone doesn’t have a normal right and is quite distinctive. I guess I’m not losing my mind after all!

  • jim

    The mockingbirds are better in New York.

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