Echo Park is perhaps the noisiest neighborhood in town, with the roar of the Dash bus competing with the the whup-whup-whup of helicopters and the grunts and groans of trash trucks. This year, there is a new source of sound, at least on our block, that’s hard to ignore: a Northern Mockingbird.
Here’s a snippet of an Echo Park Mockingbird that I recorded on a recent walk near our home. It sounds similar to the same high-pitched chirp that has awakened us and some of our neighbors well before dawn. Some residents are charmed by this evening, as well as daytime, serenade. But, believe me, it sounds like a car alarm at about 5 a.m.
Discussions with neighbors made me wonder if there had been a baby bird boom that had left Echo Park’s trees and telephone wires crowded with new and noisy wildlife. The neighborhood has always been a bit bird crazed, with residents showering the ducks at Echo Park Lake with bread crumbs and naming intersections and even stores after our feathered neighbors.
“There does seem to be more this year than in years previous,” said Mary Ann, an Echo Park resident who lives on Morton Avenue, in an email. “I measure [the bird population] by how often I need to resort to earplugs. I knew that bird was a Mockingbird. It’s way louder than the regular bird call. [It] mimics all the calls it hears during the day, then plays them for us around 3-5AM. Maddening!”
Jeff Chapman, director of the Audubon Center at Debs Park, said he had not heard of any increase in the Eastside bird population. But, he was able to identify our noisy avian neighbors as Northern Mockingbirds (not a Nightingale as I once assumed). Chapman, citing the Birders Handbook, said that “unmated” males sing at night.
The Northern Mockingbird is one of several noisy bird species to fly around the area, which is also home to flocks of squawking parrots and parakeets. “In the hills, there are also common ravens and American crows, which could be considered loud,” Chapman said in an email. “Down near Everett Park (Victor Heights) there are peacocks that are pretty loud too.”
So, how do we get some sleep, short of finding our Mockingbird a date? Chapman said it is illegal to physically move most native bird species or their nests. “I have heard that hanging pie tins in trees and having them move is one deterrent,” he said. “There are also some web sites that market things to keep birds away. Don’t know if any of these work.”
“I would consider us lucky to live in places where nature still exists,” he said. “They have survived in spite of the changes we have made to the city.”
It looks like we will be in for a long and sleepless summer because Chapman said that Mockingbirds will hang out in the same the same territory. Anyone have some extra pie tins they can spare?