We wake these March days to a cacophany of bird songs and sounds. Melodies by the mockingbirds, cheerful greetings from the cardinals, an occasional high whistle from a hawk above, the gossipy chirping of wrens and sparrows, and the repetitive four or five note call of a titmouse make up the choir and the orchestra.
It took me a long time to identify what bird was making that particular call minute by minute almost all day long. It’s almost the sound of someone knocking on the door, or maybe an electronic bee-beep alarm. It’s a very insistent call demanding of attention. I finally saw my little gray titmouse friend perched on the side of a feeder making that very sound. Aha, I thought, so you’re the one!
After limited research, I learned that the titmouse makes this repeated sound only in the spring. It is a mating call. Other times of the year these little gray birds, decorated with a wonderful line of rustic brown under their wings, chip and chirp merrily around the feeder and hop from branch to branch or fly to a high bough of the maple tree. Only in spring have I noticed their persistent “knock-knock-knockity-knock.”
I began to pay more attention to what the birds are saying. What is music to my ears is sometimes an expression of deliberation as a bird fulfills its purpose: to find a mate, to raise and protect their young, to find food and build a safe nest. There are so many different songs and sounds. The wren makes a happy melodic sound usually, but can sound very frantic and positively angry if she feels her young are threatened. A mockingbird, who repeats a long repertoire of songs he learns from all around him (I have timed a mockingbird’s concert lasting thirty minutes or more), suddenly becomes a dynamo of fierce protectiveness when someone gets too close to its nest. Some of the bird songs are so sweet like the cardinal’s merry “What cheer!” But some are raucous and brash like the bluejay’s squawk or a crow’s high-in-the-pines announcements. Some don’t seem to say very much like the robins diligently harvesting worms on the lawn or brown thrashers who only become fiercely vocal when their territory is invaded.
Listening to the choir of bird songs and sounds, even the percussion section of woodpeckers, I absorb a sense of peace and happiness emanating from our feathered friends. Whether they are busy at serious duties or sitting on a branch singing their hearts out, they help me focus on the Maker of us all. He gives us all a purpose to fulfill. We may be unaware of that purpose and not realize we have an audience, like the wood thrush in a far woods singing his liquid song.
I realize a bird’s life is not as easy and carefree as it appears to me. Sitting on the feeder, a purple finch is constantly looking from one side to the other, never able to feed in perfect peace. But in fulfilling their daily activities the birds’ various songs, calls for help, and choruses of victory stir my heart with their overall good cheer.
Listen to them and find joy: a titmouse trying to find its mate, a little wren protecting her humble abode (maybe on your porch or in an old shoe), a bright cardinal singing that all is well, or a modest gray and white mockingbird practicing all his many songs as he sits on a utility wire.
The Song of the Birds
Color me orange,
Color me blue,
Color me every imaginable hue.
Give me a voice,
Give me a song,
I’ll sing of God’s greatness
All the day long